Alibaba’s Jack Ma calls for laws on counterfeiting to be ‘as tough as those on drunk driving’

Prevalence of fakes hinders China’s innovation, hurts its reputation and threatens country’s future, says e-commerce tycoon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 6:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 10:20pm

E-commerce tycoon Jack Ma Yun has called on Chinese legislators to introduce “laws on counterfeiting as tough as those on drunk driving” as thousands of the country’s governing elite gather in Beijing to set economic and social agendas for the coming year during the NPC and CPPCC meetings, known as the “two sessions”.

In a post on Sina Weibo, often referred to as China’s Twitter, the founder and the executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding called on authorities to treat counterfeiting with the same imperative as they did when successfully cracking down on drunk driving several years ago.

“Without such strict law enforcement, we would surely see many more traffic accidents. On the contrary, the majority of counterfeiters are not held legally responsible for their actions. Because counterfeiting is such a low-risk crime, it’s hard to imagine how we can effectively rid society of counterfeit goods,” Ma wrote in a Tuesday Weibo post.

Ma called for stricter laws and stiffer penalties against counterfeiting as he believes the prevalence of fakes is hindering China’s innovation, hurting its reputation and threatening the country’s future.

“We need to fight counterfeits the same way we fight drunk driving. For example, if the penalty for even one fake product manufactured or sold was a seven-day prison sentence, the world would look very different, both in terms of intellectual property enforcement and food and drug safety, as well as our ability to foster innovation,” he wrote.

Ma’s post comes a week after Alibaba released a public appeal largely in response to ongoing criticisms about the presence of fake goods on its e-commerce platforms. The Hangzhou-based company owns the South China Morning Post.

Alibaba said in the public appeal that China’s “ambiguous counterfeiting” makes it difficult for enforcement officers to classify and quantify cases of counterfeiting, let alone commence legal proceedings.

The New York-listed company said it identified 4,495 leads on possible counterfeiting cases in 2016, each involving a value of goods exceeding the statutory minimum of 50,000 yuan (US$7,263) for criminal investigation.

Of these, only 1,184 cases were taken on by the relevant authorities, which resulted in just 33 convictions, or 0.7 per cent of the total.