How Alibaba Fights Counterfeits With Big Data From Online to Offline

Alibaba, due to the massive scale of Taobao and some specific characteristics of the Chinese market, has a larger counterfeit problem than eBay and Amazon have. Though of course all large marketplaces have that problem and need to fight it, or else they lose brands and the trust of consumers.

Recently, in an effort to change the public perception of Alibaba regarding this, the company has opened up about what they do and how they fight counterfeits.

All China Tech:

To fight the battle, Alibaba has developed scanning and detection models powered by big data, it claims. The models detect abnormal online stores on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, including Taobao, by analyzing a variety of factors, including the complexity of online stores, IP addresses, and abnormal customer reviews.

According to Alibaba, stores that sell fake products tend to use the basic template provided by Taobao, not bothering to add more functions and decorations on top of it.

Most criminals use someone else’s certificate of identification to avoid being caught. Alibaba’s technology identifies related accounts under the same internet environment – the same Wi-Fi or computer – to discover criminals’ real identities. […]

To trace the source and production locations of counterfeit goods, Alibaba collects counterfeit goods’ logistics information and other data throughout the capital chain via Alibaba’s AliPay, a sign that the tech giant’s anti-counterfeit technology efforts have expanded from online to offline.

Matthew Bassiur, the head of global intellectual property enforcement at Alibaba, contributed an essay on the topic to recode:

Alibaba’s Taobao, the world’s largest e-commerce platform, has millions of honest vendors selling billions upon billions of yuan of authentic goods every year. But there’s also a minority who traffic in counterfeit goods. […]

Last year, in a three-month pilot called “Cloud Sword,” we improved our data modeling to increase the accuracy in finding and deleting listings for counterfeit products. We also improved our network DNA source-tracing to more effectively crack down on counterfeit sellers and their entire supply chain, from upstream to downstream. At the same time, we increased our data quality, enhancing the management of leads for cases we bring to the authorities. […]

We’re doing everything from collating complaints from customers and rights-holders to using optical character recognition and analysis of photos and logos to identify online fakes. In addition to certain registration information, we’re using artificial intelligence and machine learning to pinpoint their location and unmask them. Though they’re selling suspected fake goods, they need to get paid in real money, so we also have their Alipay account information, bank details and other financial information. But we’re not stopping there — we’re calling law enforcement to nab those engaged in criminal activity.

What sets Alibaba — and “Cloud Sword” — apart from other IPR enforcement efforts, is that we are one of the few e-commerce platforms — if not the only one — to also have a proactive, offline investigations program. That means we’re able to use our “big data” and analytics to help law enforcement not just identify and go after those who traffic in counterfeit goods, but also ensure that when they apprehend them, they have strong evidence to prosecute them. We even cut off the upstream source where counterfeit goods are produced.

Update: Doesn’t seem to help yet. Recode:

On Wednesday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative dumped Alibaba back on its Notorious Markets List, which “highlights prominent online and physical marketplaces that reportedly engage in and facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.” This comes four years after the USTR had removed the Chinese e-commerce company from the list after it made some progress in combating fakes.

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