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Louis Vuitton and Alibaba Team Up to Fight the Sale of Fakes

Tackling online counterfeiting is going to take both the brands and the retailers.

Women holding a slew of Louis Vuitton bags Photo: Getty Images

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Since the dawn of the internet, online luxury shopping has been dogged by online luxury counterfeiting, especially on sprawling sites like eBay and its Chinese equivalent, Alibaba-owned Taobao.

Finally, the retailers and the brands are teaming up. Alibaba Group announced Monday that it’s forming a task group of 20 luxury brands to combat the proliferation of counterfeit sales. According to Women’s Wear Daily, the group is called “Alibaba Big Data Anticounterfeiting Alliance” and includes Louis Vuitton, Shiseido, and Swarovski.

The alliance is the latest positive move in Alibaba’s protracted struggle with brands. In May 2015, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and several other Kering-owned brands sued Alibaba for trafficking in counterfeit goods and trademark infringement. In April 2016, Alibaba’s entry into the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition prompted companies like Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co., and Gucci America to quit, leading to Alibaba’s suspension just one month later.

It’s not just Alibaba. As even the most casual online shopper knows, the internet is littered with questionable sites peddling designer goods with suspiciously low price tags and vague sources. Fake bags were always a mainstay of New York’s Canal Street and shady trunk vendors in Los Angeles, but the internet has made buying fakes immeasurably easier — or harder to avoid, depending how you look at it. Online, community forums and comments sections express doubt and concern over the authenticity of certain products and sites.

It doesn’t help that the quality of fake bags has only gone up in recent years, making it sometimes impossible to tell the real from the counterfeit.

Counterfeit bags and other objects seized by French customs on the fourth national day of counterfeit destruction in Paris in 2016.
Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

As such, brands are taking action against the websites leveraging their names. As early as 2008, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey won $63 million against eBay over the sale of counterfeits. Alexander Wang was awarded a “symbolic” $90 million in August 2016 in a suit against at least 459 different “cybersquatting” domain names claiming to sell Alexander Wang products.

Now, Alibaba’s decision to team up with brands like Louis Vuitton is a statement of unity, putting the sellers like Taobao on the same team as the luxury companies, a move industry insiders have encouraged for months. As WWD notes, Alibaba has already demonstrated its commitment by taking action against Taobao merchants selling counterfeit Swarovski watches; now, aligned with the brands themselves, it’s got even more ammo to crack down.

“The most powerful weapon against counterfeiting today is data and analytics, and the only way we can win this war is to unite,” Jessie Zheng, chief platform governance officer of Alibaba Group, told WWD.

Now let’s see if the new alliance can improve the shopping experience.