Alibaba Taps Bassiur To Tackle Counterfeiting

Alibaba on NYSE
The NYSE, decorated for Alibaba's record-setting Single's Day in November.
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Just days after the U.S. government issued a stern warning to the China-based e-tailer, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is taking action.

Alibaba has appointed former Pfizer Inc. and Apple Inc. executive Matthew Bassiur as VP and head of global intellectual property enforcement, effective January 2016.

The move follows several months of mounting criticism and pressure from U.S. organizations particularly the American Apparel & Footwear Association — and a warning from the U.S. Trade Representative on Thursday regarding Alibaba’s “slow, difficult-to-use and nontransparent” anti-counterfeit enforcement program.

Bassiur will lead a team that work with international brands and retail partners, industry associations, government regulators, law enforcement and other organizations to advance Alibaba Group’s anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property-rights-protection efforts, Alibaba said.

Matthew’s appointment is the latest step in Alibaba Group’s comprehensive and industry-leading efforts to fight counterfeits,” said Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, in a statement. “Counterfeiting is a problem that challenges all forms of distribution, whether in e-commerce or offline retail. We will continue to be relentless in our long-term commitment to protect both consumers and intellectual-property-rights owners, and we call on all companies in our industry to join our fight against bad actors.”

Bassiur comes to Alibaba with an extensive anti-counterfeiting résumé that includes top-level posts at Apple and Pfizer and a stint as a federal prosecutor in the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bassiur will report to Alibaba Group’s newly appointed president, Michael Evans. Evans was tapped by Ma in August to help expand Alibaba beyond Asian borders and to bolster the executive chairman’s goals of rebranding China as a consumption-based economy.

Despite criticism that the e-commerce behemoth has been lax in its efforts to combat the sale of fakes across its platforms — Taobao, in particular — Alibaba maintains that it has been “at the forefront through innovative and sophisticated programs and assistance of enforcement actions that are first of their kind in the e-commerce industry.”

Among its strategies for preventing the sale of counterfeits is its Blue Star program, which allows manufacturers to print unique identifiers in the form of QR codes on their products to enable the authentication and tracking of products sold on Tmall and Taobao Marketplace.

While the USTR said on Thursday that it will not re-list Taobao or Alibaba on its Notorious Markets 2015 counterfeiter roundup at this time, it “encourages the company to enhance cooperation with all stakeholders to address ongoing complaints.”