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Alibaba Fakes and the Tuhao Effect

When a Korean soap opera mocks a Chinese trend, it's over.

When a Korean soap opera mocks a Chinese trend, it’s over.

Are you the type to reprimand a mother of five at the supermarket, because her hyperactive twelve-year-old keeps cart riding and crashing into other shoppers?

So are we. That’s why we like Jack Ma. When his 12-year-old, Taobao, offends you – for instance, one of its 2 million+ stores tries to sell a fake brand, you can report the store, and follow a procedure for having the products removed.

Luxury brand owner Kering doesn’t like Jack Ma, having gone so far as to sue Alibaba for knowingly promoting fakes for profit. Pushing fakes for profit would make as much sense to Alibaba’s model as a Porsche dealership putting Boxster kit cars on its lot.

Ready for 3 media spin-free reality checks?

1. Alibaba is a huge multi-platform ecosystem with well over half a billion registered users. Alibaba customer service is not all it could be, but would grind to a standstill if converted to an NSA, ‘Big Jack is Watching You’, operation.

2. Alibaba’s platform Tmall was launched specifically to verify brands and protect them from copycats and unauthorized sellers. Keeping all the miscreants out is like trying to keep all the creeps off of Craigslist, however. 

3. No one looking for a fake Gucci bag on Taobao was going to buy a real one. Nobody’s fooled by 100RMB LV sunglasses. Taobao fakers crafty enough to actually fool a few customers are ruthlessly outed by reviewers, whose poor ratings send the stores into oblivion.

Bonus reality check!

 The Chinese consumer has moved on. Having an ultra-premium bag, even if it’s fake, or the most expensive bottle of wine in the restaurant, is no longer the golden fleece it was just a few years ago.

China's premium brand loving noveaux-riche are tuhao, ripe for mockery.

China’s premium brand loving noveaux-riche are tuhao, ripe for mockery.

Chinese who adorn themselves willy nilly with highest-end branding are mocked as tu hao, an earthy spin on “nouveau riche”. The rise of the tu hao has as much to do with slowing luxury sales as the Anti-Corruption effect, but is too relatable a phenomenon for western media outlets to fit into the “China is scary and different” agenda.

But don’t just take our word for it. We’ll leave the last and most juris-prudently considered words to Jacob Blacklock of top China law firm Lehman, Lee & Xu:

 “Brand owners are encouraged to independently monitor the online marketplace. Alibaba has a counterfeiting reporting system, which foreign brands seeking to combat counterfeits should utilize to report counterfeiters. Typically when Alibaba’s reporting procedures are followed, counterfeit goods are removed from the platform within a reasonable time.

Above all, foreign brands should be proactive about registering their trademarks and product designs (as patents) in China. With these intellectual property rights registered, foreign brand owners may engage Chinese counsel to deliver cease & desist letters to counterfeiters, as well as to pursue litigation and criminal liability directly against counterfeiters where appropriate. The use of Chinese counsel is necessary to present a “credible threat” to infringers.”

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