Alibaba's Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers a speech at an investor conference at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province, June 14, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)
Jack Ma's comments that fake products made today are "better quality and better priced" than the real goods should not be taken as a reflection of the company's failure to curb counterfeits, counterfeit experts said.
Ma, executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, made his comments at an investor meeting on Tuesday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
According to reports, he said the better quality of the fake goods is due to many of them being made at the same or similar factories, sometimes with the same labor force using the same materials.
"They are exactly the same factories, exactly the same raw materials but they do not use the names," Ma said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
He also said the problem of counterfeit goods cannot be solved "100 percent, because it's the fight against human instinct", according to The New York Times. "But we can solve the problem better than any government, than any organization, than (anybody) in the world."
Ma's remarks were made in response to persistent criticism from luxury brands that the company is not doing enough to get rid of counterfeit goods on its sprawling e-commerce platform Taobao, where it is easy to find fake designer bags and jewelry.
Peter Yu, professor of law at Texas A&M University, said that counterfeits can be classified into various categories, with Ma most likely referencing "A-grade" goods that are so difficult to tell apart that they can only be verified by lab technicians or the original manufacturers.
"From the perspective of brands, when they see fake goods on Alibaba, they believe that Alibaba hasn't done enough to enforce and protect intellectual property rights, and that Alibaba should do more," said Yu, who is also co-director of the Center for Law and Intellectual Property at Texas A&M.
"But the part of the story that isn't emphasized is how much money and effort those retailing sites have already put in to the police the networks," he said.
Yu said that fake goods are also available on eBay, Alibaba's American equivalent, but the scale of counterfeiting in China is much larger, so even with the resources that Alibaba is putting into combating the proliferation of fakes, brands might still feel the efforts are inadequate.
Alibaba had been criticized by the Chinese government for failing to curb fakes, and late last year the US government issued a stern warning to the company, saying it could be added back to the "Notorious Markets List" if it does not do a better job enforcing piracy rules.
Alibaba became a general member of the International AntiCoun-terfeiting Coalition, a group that represents many luxury brands, but its membership was suspended a month after it was admitted. The organization's board of directors said the suspension was due to concerns from members, which the Journal reported included luxury brand Michael Kors.
"I think the focus of the conversation in the industry isn't to point fingers at Alibaba or any marketplace, but about making sure that our technologies are advanced and that they're easy to apply, track and trace," said Rich Cremona, CEO of OpSec Security Group Ltd, a brand protection company.