Alibaba suspended from counterfeit-fighting group

After Alibaba had its IACC membership suspended, founder Jack Ma has cancelled his keynote address to the counterfeit-fighting group’s conference.

Ma was to have been a drawcard speaker at this week’s two-day annual spring conference of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) in Orlando, Florida, an event that attracts more than 500 leaders from business, law, security and government.

His move also follows Alibaba Group and the coalition creating the IACC MarketSafe Expansion Program last week. The original program was created by Alibaba and the IACC in 2013 in recognition of the counterfeiting problem being too pervasive and complex for any single company or industry to fight alone.

Alibaba last month became the world’s first eCommerce company to join the IACC, the largest non-profit organisation dedicated to combating product counterfeiting and piracy. At least three members of the Washington-based coalition, including board member Tiffany & Co, quit the group in protest and others threatened to leave after Alibaba was admitted as a member. The IACC suspended the new category in which Alibaba had been admitted, effectively terminating its membership.

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans has stepped in to speak at the conference instead.  Alibaba international corporate communications head Jennifer Kuperman repeated that the company is “firmly committed to the protection of ­intel­lectual property rights and combating counterfeits”.

On the same day Ma cancelled his conference appearance, he had lunch with US President Barack Obama at the White House, telling reporters afterward that the meeting had been “very good”.

Among the brands that quit the IACC in protest was Michael Kors, which blasted the organisation for providing “cover to our most dangerous and damaging adversary”.

Michael Kors was followed out by Gucci.

Alibaba has meanwhile hired an army of employees to weed out fake brands from its website. It has also called for comprehensive changes at the IACC so it can counter trends and new technology in counterfeiting “instead of being held captive by some members’ interests”.

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