September 21, 2023


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Defending YOUR Mental Property From Alibaba and Different Chinese language E-Commerce Websites

17 min read

It’s no secret that China is the world’s leading source of counterfeit goods. Barely a day goes by with out an American or European firm contacting one among our mental property legal professionals to get counterfeit merchandise faraway from a Chinese language e-commerce web site.

Regardless that it could appear there’s no technique to defend your model from counterfeiters on China web sites like Alibaba, this concept is definitely false. You may often simply and cheaply cease IP infringement while you discover it (even in China), if you understand the steps you must take to take action. First, although, let’s go over what precisely we imply once we’re speaking about counterfeit merchandise.

What Is a Counterfeit?

Legally talking, a counterfeit is a fraudulent copy of an merchandise. This definition consists of something from cash to electronics to luxury handbags. Counterfeit product listings stay a giant problem on Chinese language e-commerce marketplaces reminiscent of Alibaba, Taobao, Tmall, and lots of extra.

Our legal professionals have a close to 100% success price at getting counterfeit merchandise faraway from official Chinese language e-commerce web sites. However our success price relies upon largely on the marketed product being a counterfeit, as that time period is usually outlined by legal professionals, not businesspeople.

How one can Cease Chinese language Counterfeits

You simply found a Chinese language firm is knocking off your product. What do you do? Most firms go to their common legal professionals and ask them what to do — and most legal professionals simply don’t know.

Now what?

Reaching out to a lawyer skilled in cross-border litigation and China counterfeits is your finest guess. There are lots of choices for coping with Chinese language counterfeiters, and educated legal professionals like these in Harris Bricken’s mental property workforce are right here that will help you decide what’s finest on your particular scenario.

Questions We Ask

A few of the extra frequent questions we ask once we get an e-mail or name asking us to tackle a China counterfeiting matter embody:

  • What IP registrations — together with copyrights, logos, and patents — do you’ve gotten and the place?
  • Which (if any) of your IP registrations is the counterfeiter infringing?
  • Have you ever recorded your IP with any customs places of work in any nation?
  • Do you imagine you maintain any copyrights that aren’t registered wherever, and is the counterfeiter utilizing any of them?
  • Have you learnt something in regards to the Chinese language firm you imagine to be knocking off your merchandise?
  • Have you ever had any prior dealings or contracts with this firm?

As soon as we’ve got a superb really feel on your scenario, we start discussing the subsequent steps.

What Are Your Choices?

Protecting your intellectual property

If somebody is counterfeiting your merchandise in China, there are a number of routes you possibly can take:

  1. Pursuing administrative or litigation reduction in China. You may sue the counterfeiter in a Chinese language court docket. Arbitration may be an choice when you’ve got a contract with the counterfeiters (almost certainly your individual producer) that requires it.
  2. Discovering who’s importing the counterfeit merchandise. Usually, the U.S. importer is intently linked to the corporate in China that’s knocking off its merchandise.
  3. Pressuring or suing the importer. Sending a cease-and-desist letter to the importer of counterfeits of your merchandise could be an efficient technique to cope with the Chinese language firm as nicely. Suing the importer typically is sensible if the cease-and- desist letter doesn’t work.
  4. Suing the Chinese language firm in a U.S. court docket. Although suing for damages in a U.S. court docket often is just not the very best tactic to take towards a Chinese language counterfeiter, it may be a wise transfer if it permits you to seize funds or different property belonging to the counterfeiter or get an injunction blocking its gross sales.
  5. Checking official Chinese language firm data. You may typically use the data in these data to impress upon the Chinese language firm why it must cease copying your merchandise, particularly in the event that they present U.S. connections of the corporate or its house owners, officers, or administrators.
  6. Submitting a Part 337 case with the Worldwide Commerce Fee in Washington, D.C. A Part 337 case formally declares an infringement has taken place. This motion is especially efficient when you’ve got a patent or unregistered trademark you’ll want to defend. You may typically pursue these instances with out having to serve the Chinese language defendant beneath the Hague Conference service of course of guidelines.
  7. Serving takedown notices on fraudulent e-commerce listings. Taking down counterfeits of your merchandise on e-commerce websites can oftentimes be quick, straightforward, and efficient. Nonetheless, the benefit of this course of relies on the existence and high quality of your IP registrations.

How one can Stop Counterfeits from China Knockoff Manufacturers

It’s by no means too early to take motion to forestall Chinese language firms from counterfeiting your merchandise. One of the best factor you are able to do to guard your copyright from Chinese language knockoffs is to be proactive. Plan now along with your IP filings for takedowns (and different enforcement actions) later.

Although you possibly can in all probability survive a Chinese language firm promoting a less expensive model of your product, your possibilities of surviving towards merchandise that duplicate your product, are legally allowed to make use of your model title on it, and value half as a lot as yours may very well be the loss of life knell on your firm. And this may occur for those who don’t take acceptable measures to protect towards malfeasance by your individual suppliers and different enterprise companions. That’s why we can’t stress sufficient the significance of getting China registered logos and China non-disclosure, non-use, non-circumvention (NNN) agreements as a key a part of your counterfeit prevention technique. A China-centric NNN settlement protects your IP by guaranteeing your provider(s) is not going to promote your merchandise out its again door. Observe {that a} Western-style non-disclosure settlement (NDA) for China will nearly definitely lower your IP safety, not improve it.

China Centric NNN Agreement

Registering China patents and China copyrights can be necessary to your technique, however in our expertise, having a China trademark is often the quickest and best technique to get offending items taken down from Chinese language web sites.

Register Your Trademark(s) with the China Trademark Workplace

Registering your logos with the China Trademark Workplace is the important first step for almost any firm that’s having its product made in China or that faces a counterfeiting menace from China.

Although you possibly can generally take away counterfeit listings from foreign-facing Chinese language e-commerce websites with a trademark registration from one other nation, many Chinese language e-commerce websites require a Chinese language trademark registration to get a takedown. Additionally they often transfer significantly sooner towards counterfeiters when you’ve got a registration.

It is because China is a first-to-file nation, that means that whoever is the primary to safe a trademark has the rights over that trademark — that additionally means you haven’t any rights in that mark till it will get registered. The trademark registration provides you the authorized capability to implement your rights to that mark, and it needs to be one of many items in your total technique.

It’s a superb factor, then, that China trademark purposes are transferring a lot sooner now than they did in years previous. Our China trademark legal professionals report that it’s taking about seven months from software to registration of a Chinese language trademark.

For any firm involved about counterfeit items coming from China, the next move needs to be to register your trademark with China Customs.

Register Your China IP with China Customs

Registering with China Customs is extra of a sensible resolution than a authorized requirement. Although China Customs officers can conduct a search of the China Trademark Workplace’s registry to find out if items they’re analyzing infringe on a registered trademark, they often solely test towards their company’s database.

Primarily, until you register individually with China Customs, they received’t hassle implementing your trademark.

China Customs

You may solely register with China Customs after the Trademark Workplace has issued you a trademark certificates. Although the registration course of often provides three to 5 months to your registration timeline, it’s nicely definitely worth the further wait.

You’ll want to offer Customs with details about your corporation in addition to the IP you want to register. The precise paperwork often embody:

  • A Chinese language-language copy of your corporation license or certificates of incorporation
  • A replica of the Chinese language registration certificates on your trademark, patent, or copyright
  • An influence of lawyer (POA) signed and executed by the IP proprietor
  • Photos of the products for which you might be searching for safety and their packaging

After approving your software, Customs will contact you any time they uncover a cargo of products that may very well be infringing in your mental property. You’ll have three working days to request seizure of the products. Assuming you are taking this motion and publish a bond, Customs will examine the cargo for you.

If Customs concludes the products are infringing, they may usually do one among two issues:

  • Take away the infringing mark and donate the products to charity
  • Destroy the products if the mark can’t be eliminated

They’ll then deduct the prices related to storing and destroying the products out of your bond.

Constructing IP Partitions Outdoors China

Chinese language firms can get counterfeit merchandise in the marketplace extremely shortly, which is why we regularly inform our shoppers to construct “IP partitions” in international locations aside from China. When you’re ready for trademark approval, having registrations in different international locations might help defend your IP.

Waiting for trademark approval

For instance, in case you are promoting your product in america and in Spain, you must concentrate on securing logos in each international locations as shortly as attainable, amongst different issues. Neither trademark will technically present any trademark safety in China, however they will nonetheless assist get infringing adverts faraway from web sites much like Alibaba.

In case you discover “your” product on Alibaba whereas the trademark continues to be unregistered, the possibilities Alibaba will take away it are slim. When you’ve got a Spain trademark, your possibilities of eradicating an infringing Alibaba ad clearly focused at Spanish prospects are higher. The identical holds true for america. Having a registered Chinese language trademark, although, considerably improves your odds of efficiently eradicating the ad.

Equally necessary is stopping the offending product from reaching Spain or the U.S. Spanish Customs has the authority to dam, detain and seize incoming merchandise that violate mental property rights in Spain and different EU international locations. America and most different EU member states have related procedures.

How one can Take Down Counterfeits from Alibaba and Different Chinese language E-Commerce Web sites

The method to register on Alibaba as a vendor is surprisingly easy. After establishing an account, sellers have the choice to grow to be Gold or Verified Suppliers. These are paid memberships the location provides to reliable sellers — Verified Suppliers particularly must endure a sequence of third-party audits to keep up their standing.

That stated, not each vendor wants verification to function on the location. In keeping with the Workplace of america Commerce Consultant’s Notorious Markets List, mental property rights holders have reported that the location’s controls for vetting sellers and penalizing repeat offenders are missing. This creates a breeding floor for counterfeiters.

Thankfully, nearly all Chinese language e-commerce websites, together with the Alibaba household of websites, have formal inside procedures for eradicating product listings that infringe a 3rd social gathering’s IP rights.

It’s essential to comply with these procedures to the letter to get these web sites to take away infringing listings. Earlier than you possibly can start, you need to present documentation proving:

  • You exist
  • You’re the IP proprietor
  • You may have the rights to the IP in query

Documentation to provide

You may solely submit a takedown request after you’ve gotten submitted these paperwork and obtained verification from the e-commerce web site.

Assuming every little thing goes nicely, most e-commerce websites will take away the counterfeit merchandise inside per week or so after you submit your takedown request. However when issues don’t go nicely — which, judging from the quantity of cellphone calls and emails we get on this problem, occurs somewhat regularly — it’s vital to have an individual in your facet who speaks Chinese language, understands Chinese language mental property legislation, and is skilled in coping with the actual web site posting counterfeits of your merchandise.

This particular person’s job can be to speak with higher-level workers of the websites to elucidate why the itemizing infringes in your mental property. Typically, we discover that always pushing the issue to greater ranges throughout the firm is efficient for getting merchandise taken down, particularly once we clarify that issues will go simpler for them in the event that they take away the listings.

Expertise can be necessary. Your corporation’s historical past in coping with Alibaba counterfeit claims often performs a big function in how shortly the problem will get resolved — they name this their “good religion mechanism.” Utilizing a legislation agency that has a confirmed monitor report of dependable submissions will often be the very best and quickest technique to get counterfeit listings taken down.

How Does the Course of Work?

Alibaba permits firms to file complaints about any IP infringement — together with patents, logos, and copyrights — by the Alibaba Mental Property Safety Platform (IPP Platform).

Alibaba accont eligible to seek removal of infringing links

We have now an Alibaba account that makes us eligible to hunt elimination of hyperlinks that infringe our shoppers’ IPs. We do that by submitting the next:

  • Our shopper’s “enterprise license”
  • Any formal IP registration paperwork
  • Typically, a POA signed by the shopper authorizing us to file the complaints on their behalf
  • IP registration quantity(s)
  • Title of IP
  • Title of the IP proprietor
  • Sort of IP
  • Nation of registration
  • Time interval throughout which the IP registration is efficient
  • Time interval throughout which the IP proprietor needs to guard their IP rights

As soon as Alibaba verifies the supplied info, we offer the infringing hyperlinks. Alibaba nearly at all times removes the listings pretty shortly afterward.

Observe that solely the copyright or trademark proprietor or its approved consultant could make takedown requests, and websites fluctuate as to the form of authentication they require. Whereas just about all websites require POAs, the massive Chinese language websites know our legal professionals nicely sufficient that they nearly by no means require that we offer them with a proper POA doc to realize a takedown.

Moreover, we’ll want to offer proof that you’ve registered your IP someplace. As we beforehand talked about, whereas some Chinese language websites will take down merchandise with overseas IP registrations, China registrations are at all times higher. China is legally obligated to acknowledge copyrights owned by individuals from nations which are events to the Berne Convention — however having a copyright registration, and particularly one from China, will assist issues run extra easily.

For complaints regarding patent rights, we additionally must show the connection between the counterfeit itemizing and the IP being infringed. Alibaba usually then sends our grievance to the infringing social gathering.

The offending vendor then has three working days to reply to the takedown with a counter-notification, which is a declare that the vendor owns the copyright. In the event that they do file a grievance, we’ll must deny it, after which Alibaba will deal with the “dispute.” As you’ll think about, counterfeiters nearly by no means file a cross-complaint. More often than not, they simply slink away.

But when your case is like every of the opposite instances we’ve labored on, it received’t be over even after the counterfeits get eliminated. As soon as the takedown course of begins, it just about continues ceaselessly. Counterfeiters don’t simply quit after their first add will get taken down — that’s why firms rent us to observe and report. After we’ve eliminated the prevailing counterfeits, we talk about what subsequent steps make sense on your firm and your scenario.

We additionally strive to determine who’s doing the counterfeiting, how they’re doing it and whether or not something could be achieved to cease it or sluggish it down. Usually, we discover that our shoppers’ counterfeiters are their personal factories or distributors. Having a China NNN Settlement might help stop this example from affecting your organization.

NNN Agreement and distributor counterfeit

What About Counterfeits in Different Chinese language Marketplaces?

We have now achieved related outcomes with China’s different main and legit on-line marketplaces, together with and DHgate. However as you’ll count on, China’s smaller and sketchier marketplaces are extra problematic with regards to mental property safety.

These smaller web sites often lack clear directions on their web site, so we regularly must contact somebody immediately by phone to start out the method. That stated, besides within the uncommon events the place we’re coping with a pirate web site, China’s e-commerce marketplaces often don’t need to be sued for internet hosting counterfeit gadgets. As long as we do all of the work for them, they’ll nearly at all times take down rogue merchandise and content material.

Ought to You Sue?

Whereas our China mental property legal professionals have been profitable with nearly each takedown request we’ve filed, there are some limits to what could be achieved past eradicating Alibaba copyright infringements.

We don’t advise suing these web sites until and till we’ve got tried and did not get the counterfeit listings taken down. Lawsuits are costly, and based mostly on our monitor report in securing takedowns, the chances are overwhelming that we are going to by no means must file one in your behalf.

In case you’re contemplating suing the infringing firm, you’ll need to be sure you have a powerful case and that you just sue in the fitting jurisdiction. Being sensible about your swimsuit can considerably enhance the possibilities that the judgment will get enforced.

Keep in mind: Anger Is Not a Technique

Firms that see knockoffs of their merchandise too typically need to do “something and every little thing” to cease it, however that’s not at all times the very best use of their money and time.

Typically talking, for those who’re not promoting nicely in a rustic, otherwise you don’t plan to promote there in any respect, making an attempt to cease knockoffs there typically isn’t definitely worth the money and time. The identical goes for going after knockoffs with which your merchandise aren’t truly competing.

Enable me to elucidate what I imply. A few years in the past, I went to an artwork gallery in Hanoi and noticed a portray I cherished going for round $4,500. Later that day, I noticed counterfeits of that portray promoting for under $50. I ended up shopping for the unique, which now hangs on a wall in my workplace.

Whereas it was less expensive, I by no means as soon as thought of shopping for the copy as a result of it lacked every little thing the unique had. I needed a wonderful and well-done piece of artwork, not the equal of what hangs within the rooms at a Vacation Inn Categorical.

The purpose of this anecdote is that low cost knockoffs often goal individuals who would by no means buy the actual factor. The one who buys the $50 knockoff is just not the one that would possibly purchase the $4,500 authentic. These are two totally different markets and two totally different prospects. Although you must completely take down infringing listings in the event that they intervene along with your gross sales, think about whether or not it’s definitely worth the effort and time to go after merchandise that aren’t truly threatening your model.

Removing Counterfiet website links

My Copyright Is Unregistered. Can I Nonetheless Take Down Alibaba Knockoffs?

In any scenario, the very best factor you are able to do is to first register your IP after which pursue the protections a registered standing offers. However what do you have to do in case your copyright is unregistered?

Whereas registering your copyright is a clearer technique to show possession, Alibaba’s IPP Platform does allow takedowns based mostly on unregistered copyrights, and our worldwide IP legal professionals have had success in doing this for our shoppers.

Like with a registered copyright, we have to file a Copyright Declare Assertion by the IPP Platform to show possession. The submission necessities are as follows:

  1. Your declare that particular hyperlinks include your copyrighted work and that your copyright is getting used with out your consent
  2. Your title
  3. Proof of possession reassignment, if you aren’t the creator
  4. Date, time, and place of creation
  5. Technique of creation — for instance, pictures, programming, or recording
  6. Date of first publication
  7. Proof of first publication, reminiscent of the precise location of the copyrighted work from an official web site or catalog
  8. Description of the copyrighted work’s main traits

This course of usually takes longer than if the copyright was registered with a illustration of the work — round three enterprise days if all of the required info has been submitted.

For many firms, this isn’t a DIY course of. Failing to correctly submit every little thing will get your copyright takedown request despatched to purgatory earlier than you study that your request has been denied.

If Alibaba decides to determine your copyright possession, you’ll obtain the next e-mail:

“尊敬的XX, 您好: 欢迎您使用阿里巴巴集团知识产权保护平台。 您在本平台提交的知识产权XX著作权权属证明已审核通过 请登陆http://ipp.alibabagroup.com查看并进行其它操作。 感谢您对阿里巴巴集团知识产权保护工作的关注和参与! 阿里巴巴集团知识产权保护团队 Expensive XX, Welcome to Alibaba Mental Property Safety Platform. Your submitted proof of mental property proper XX著作权 has been efficiently authenticated. Please log in to view and proceed with additional motion. Thanks on your consideration to and participation in our mental property safety. Alibaba Mental Property Safety Group”

Now that Alibaba has established your possession of the unregistered copyright, you possibly can start submitting claims for every infringing merchandise throughout the IPP Platform. You’ll want to offer particular person hyperlinks to every web page the place the gadgets are listed on all of Alibaba’s portals, together with Taobao, AliExpress, and Tmall, amongst others.

You may comply with the same course of for disputes on different well-known web sites, like DHgate and Making an attempt to take down counterfeits of unregistered IP on different marketplaces can get sophisticated, so searching for authorized assistance is a good suggestion for many firms.

Submitting a claim with Alibaba

Remaining Ideas

Right here’s the underside line. Many firms have knockoffs of their merchandise bought on Alibaba or related web sites, and these knockoffs negatively impression gross sales of the actual factor. Even after you efficiently file a grievance, maintaining knockoffs off these websites is like enjoying Whac-A-Mole — as quickly as you take away them, a recent spherical pops as much as change them.

So, what are you able to do? Easy. Ensure you register your China IP with the related company, in addition to report it with China Customs. Whereas taking these steps received’t do away with counterfeits fully, they’ll definitely make eliminating them quite a bit simpler. And if you’ll want to take down infringing product listings that exist already, you’ll need somebody with expertise in your facet.

What do you assume? Have you ever skilled any issues with China knockoff web sites?

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