US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has revealed the findings of his office’s 2017 Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, highlighting 25 online markets and 18 physical markets, including Alibaba’s Taobao ecommerce platform.
According to a statement from the office of Lighthizer, the activity of these markets “harms the American economy by undermining the innovation and intellectual property rights of US owners of IP rights in foreign markets”.

“Imports in counterfeit and pirated physical products is estimated at nearly half a trillion dollars, or around 2.5 percent of global imports,” it said.

Lighthizer commented: “Marketplaces worldwide that contribute to illicit trade cause severe harm to the American economy, innovation, and workers.”

“The Trump Administration is committed to holding intellectual property rights violators accountable and intensifying efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy.”

Of Taobao, the report said that the website offered “a high volume of infringing products” and stakeholders “continue to report challenges and burdens associated with IP enforcement on the platform”.

The report recognised Alibaba’s efforts to curb the sale of infringing products on Taobao, but said that the “prevalence of infringing listings and sales continues to be a challenge and there are additional steps Alibaba must take to address ongoing concerns”.

According to the report, Alibaba should “seriously consider expanding its reported ban on automotive air bags and air bag components on the and platforms to the Taobao platform”.

It also recommended that Alibaba ensure its referrals of criminal leads to Chinese authorities lead to meaningful enforcement outcomes, and seek to improve the effectiveness of its repeat infringer policy.

An Alibaba spokesperson said that the company had been “turned into a scapegoat by the US Trade Representative to win points in a highly-politicised environment and their actions should be recognised for what they are”.

“The US Trade Representative’s actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the US Government’s geopolitical objectives.”

The spokesperson concluded: “Alibaba reiterates our point of view: we will continue to strengthen our IP protection system with world leading technology and a collaborative approach with brands and other stakeholders. Our efforts and results speak for themselves: over 100,000 brands, including 75 percent of the world’s most valuable consumer brands, do business on our platform.”

Last year, Taobao was returned to the Notorious Markets list after a four year absence, which the US Trade Representative said was down to “unacceptably high” levels of reported counterfeits and piracy.

Prolific piracy site The Pirate Bay also continued its streak on to the list, despite enforcement actions around the world and legal battles against its operators.

The report said: “The Pirate Bay is of symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites of admittedly illegal downloads of movies, television, music, and other copyrighted content.”

“The site is in the top 100 most popular sites worldwide, is available in 35 languages and celebrated its 10-year anniversary by releasing the PirateBrowser, a portable web browser with preset bookmarks to BitTorrent websites”