Alibaba leverages big data in anti-counterfeiting alliance

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has joined forces with Louis Vuitton, Samsung and Mars to fight fakes using big data.

The move, which sees Alibaba and more than 20 global brands forming the big data anti-counterfeiting alliance, comes as the online marketplace faces intense criticism over the persistence of fakes on its platform and follows renewed efforts by the firm to address these.

The alliance aims to foster industry collaboration and promote the use of big data and technology in the global fight against counterfeits, according to a company statement.

The alliance will initially have 20 members, including Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Swarovski, Mars and Huawei, in addition to support from government bodies and law enforcement agencies in China, which will pool resources and collaborate to protect brands and the global e-commerce ecosystem from counterfeiting and IP infringement, Alibaba said.

"The most powerful weapon against counterfeiting today is data analytics, and the only way we can win this war is to unite," said Jessie Zheng, chief platform governance officer of Alibaba Group. "With our robust data capabilities, we are confident the alliance will accelerate the digital transformation in our global fight against counterfeits."

With the rise of the internet, social media and online shopping, counterfeiters have begun to take advantage of consumers' changing shopping habits. Anonymity, ease, limited enforcement and the attraction of profits have led counterfeiters to the online shopping space to dupe unsuspecting consumers.

The large e-commerce sites including Alibaba, Amazon, eBay and Groupon have all been accused of allowing fraudsters to infiltrate their marketplaces. To avoid further reputation hits, these companies have now started to actively tackle the issue.

Alibaba, which has faced the fiercest criticism – and has been relisted as a notorious market by the US Trade Representative – has recently revved up its counterfeit crackdown, with the alliance initiative the latest in a series of efforts to prove it is taking counterfeits seriously.

The firm believes the use of big data and analytics will be one of the main tools in the fight against fakes. As such, it is using a variety of technologies, including complex algorithms, machine learning, optical character recognition and mapping technologies, to identify conmen and scan 10 million product listings a day. At the end of last year, Alibaba announced that more than 400 counterfeit rackets had been disrupted and 332 people arrested as a result of data and intelligence it had shared with authorities.

Under the terms of this new alliance, the use of these technologies will be expanded. Alibaba will provide members with big data and advanced technological support in their IP enforcement work, including help to block, screen and take down infringing listings. In return, brands and other members of the alliance have committed to share their expertise on IP authentication and anti-counterfeiting data with Alibaba and other members to bolster the efforts of the entire group.

Intelligence will be shared with brands and law enforcement agencies for offline investigations and prosecutions.

Alliance members welcomed the initiative. Scott Thompson, general counsel of marketing properties at Mars Inc said: "We take efforts to eradicate anti-counterfeiting very seriously and are encouraged by the alliance's commitment to use big data and advanced technologies to thwart it. We look forward to continuing to work with Alibaba and others to break the supply chain of counterfeit goods, and create an environment where counterfeiters can no longer hide."

Direct selling company Amway also noted Alibaba's positive efforts in spearheading the fight against fakes. "Already Alibaba has delivered significant results in tracking down IP violators, and we look forward to working with them and the rest of the members to continue that effort," said Sam Shen, director at Amway.

The alliance will also regularly review Alibaba's platform governance rules and policies, with feedback used to improve its anti-counterfeiting technology.

"In the spirit of full transparency, the alliance will publicly disclose its anti-counterfeiting progress and results on a regular basis," Alibaba said in a statement.

In addition, the alliance will raise awareness of IP enforcement best practices and consumer education, as well as explore new and innovative ways to better protect brands on and offline.

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