Alibaba’s Jack Ma cancels speech at anti-counterfeiting conference

Decision by chief of China’s biggest e-commerce firm comes days after company’s membership of Washington-based coalition was suspended

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 12:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 12:11am

Alibaba Group Holding chief Jack Ma has cancelled a speech at an anti-counterfeiting conference in the United States after the trade group behind it suspended the ­e-commerce giant’s recently gained membership.

Alibaba has been dogged for years by accusations that its online shopping platforms were conduits for counterfeiters and critics say it has not done nearly enough to stop the problem.

Given the IACC’s desire for additional time to reflect upon the viability of its general membership category, Alibaba feels it best that Jack Ma postpone his appearance
Jennifer Kuperman, Alibaba spokeswoman

At least three members of the Washington-based International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) , including board member Tiffany & Co, quit the group in protest and others threatened to leave after Alibaba was admitted as a member in April.

On Friday, the IACC suspended the new category in which Alibaba was admitted, effectively terminating its membership.

“Given the IACC’s desire for additional time to reflect upon the viability of its general membership category, Alibaba feels it best that Jack Ma postpone his appearance,” Jennifer Kuperman, head of Alibaba’s international corporate communications, said in a statement.

Alibaba Group is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans will speak at the conference in Orlando, Florida ­instead.

Kuperman repeated Alibaba’s stance that it was “firmly committed to the protection of ­intel­lectual property rights and combating counterfeits”.

Alibaba presses on in crackdown on fake goods after suspension from anti-counterfeiting group

On Tuesday – the same day as the cancellation – Ma had lunch with US President Barack Obama at the White House, an Alibaba source with knowledge of the situation said.

Ma was spotted leaving the White House grounds from a gate alongside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Asked by reporters to describe his meeting, he said “maybe later” and “very good” before getting into a waiting black vehicle.

China’s biggest e-commerce firm has pledged to fight fake goods and has hired an army of employees to weed them out, but many brands say the problem is still widespread, particularly on the hugely popular shopping site Taobao.

In a letter to the IACC explaining its decision to leave the group, luxury brand Michael Kors called Alibaba “the largest marketplace for counterfeit merchandise the world has ever seen” and blasted the IACC for providing “cover to our most dangerous and damaging adversary”.

Anti-counterfeit group suspends internet giant Alibaba over conflict of interest claims

Meanwhile, Alibaba has called for comprehensive changes at the IACC so that it can counter new trends and new technology in counterfeiting, instead of being held captive by some members’ interests, according to a company statement.

In the statement, Alibaba said it would continue with its efforts to protect intellectual property rights and combat counterfeits but insisted that no organisation should be affected by internal politics or some companies’ ­interests. The company said the world today was vastly different from the 1970s when the IACC was created, and counterfeiters were becoming more hi-tech, globalised and concealed.

The IACC’s decision to suspend its general membership category, which included Alibaba and other e-commerce companies, was regrettable, it added.

Reuters, Associated Press