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Alibaba

Hangzhou start-up accuses Alibaba’s Tmall of copying its skin treatment app

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 10:06pm

A Chinese app developer has accused Alibaba Group of dodging responsibility in an intellectual property theft claim made against its Tmall e-commerce platform, with the start-up vowing to file a lawsuit against the e-commerce giant.

In a statement posted on zhihu.com, the Chinese Quora-like Q&A website, Wu Liang, CEO of Hangzhou C2H4 Internet Technology, said an in-app feature on Alibaba’s Tmall platform that can scan a customers’ face, evaluate skin conditions and recommend solutions copied its own “You Look Amazing Today” app launched by his company last year.

“Alibaba, in the name of cooperation, has taken away our entire technology and fully copied our app,” Wu said, adding that Alibaba’s Ali Health medical arm approached his company in May 2017 to discuss rolling out the skin-testing feature on the Tmall and Taobao platforms.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

In discussing possible collaboration, C2H4 offered app codes and demo versions to Ali Health without signing a contract, according to Wu. Shortly after Ali Health ended cooperation talks with the Hangzhou start-up a similar feature was launched on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform in September.

In a statement on Friday in response to Wu’s allegation, Tmall apologised to C2H4 for “plagiarism in the user instructions” of Tmall’s skin testing feature, adding that it would permanently remove the app from its platform.

Tmall also said the management and staff involved in the incident have received “serious warnings” that will affect their performance evaluations this year.

However, Tmall denied it stole the code from the Hangzhou start-up, saying that collaboration between C2H4 and Ali Health was a separate issue, suggesting that the skin-testing feature on Tmall was a programme designed independently by the Alibaba platform.

Wu responded in a second web posting on Saturday, saying that the statement from Tmall – Alibaba’s business to consumer (B2C) platform – failed to address the key issues and that the company was “dwelling on the trivial” in its response.

A Tmall spokeswoman told the Post on Sunday that it is open to reviewing the case with C2H4 directly or through an independent third-party.

Subsequent to Tmall’s apology, Zhang Jianfeng, Alibaba’s chief technology officer at Alibaba, said the plagiarism case has hurt the platform partners and that the relevant department should investigate it thoroughly.

Wu said C2H4 has instructed its lawyers to begin collecting evidence for legal proceedings against Alibaba.