Alibaba, Amazon, and Counterfeiting in the Age of the Internet

Chow, Daniel C.K. | January 1, 2020

The advent of e-commerce marketplaces such as Alibaba and Amazon in the new millennium has led to the proliferation of the sale of counterfeit goods around the world through the Internet. Brand owners find that Internet counterfeiters operating in the digital world present even more challenges than those using only brick-and-mortar operations. Internet counterfeiters have unprecedented access to consumers. They use false identities and addresses and vanish into cyberspace at the first sign of trouble. Brand owners seeking help from Alibaba and Amazon to remove listings of counterfeits have become frustrated by their convoluted and labyrinthine notice and take-down procedures. Even when these procedures are used successfully, brand owners find that the process can take months only to have the counterfeiter reappear in short order using a new false identity. Many brand owners find that dealing with Alibaba and Amazon only adds to their misery and believe that both tolerate counterfeits as they earn revenue from all sales, including sales of counterfeit goods. This Article sets forth for the first time how brand owners can use a set of currently available information technology tools to help create an effective deterrent to counterfeits on the Internet. Using these tools, brand owners can force counterfeiters to abandon the subterfuge and disguise that they rely on so that brand owners can—without the assistance of e-commerce platforms—directly pursue counterfeiters in civil and criminal actions in China where most of the counterfeiters are located and in the United States. The proposed approach should help deter counterfeiters who always work in secrecy and disguise by exposing them to what they fear and loathe the most: transparency and accountability for their illegal actions.