Alibaba creates IPR enforcement role to combat counterfeits

New executive appointment comes amid concerns over counterfeit goods sold on Alibaba's e-commerce sites, including luxury brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Alibaba has created a new role as part of efforts to combat growing concerns over counterfeit goods sold on its popular e-commerce websites.

The Chinese internet giant has appointed Matthew Bassiur as vice president and head of global intellectual property enforcement, with the new role to take effect January 2016, Alibaba said.

Bassiur will lead a team that works with global brands and retail partners, as well as industry groups, government regulators, and law enforcement agencies to "advance Alibaba's anti-counterfeiting and IP rights protection efforts". The company added that the new executive will report to its group president Michael Evans.

Alibaba Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma noted: "Matthew's appointment is the latest step in Alibaba's comprehensive and industry-leading efforts to fight counterfeits.

"Counterfeiting is a problem that challenges all forms of distribution, whether in e-commerce or offline retail," Ma said. "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."

Alibaba has come under fire on numerous occasions concerning the sale of counterfeit goods on its e-commerce sites--namely, Taobao and Tmall--leading to criticism that it built its success on imitations. Several luxury brands, including Gucci, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent, filed a lawsuit in the US alleging the Chinese e-commerce operator knowingly helped counterfeiters peddle their ware.

In response, Ma dismissed such suggestions, arguing that his company had improved its processes to combat the sale of fake goods and that this was a national problem. He added that Alibaba also lost customers due to the sale of counterfeit products on its online stores.

Prior to his appointment at Alibaba, Bassiur was deputy chief security officer at Pfizer, where he led the pharmaceutical company's anti-counterfeiting operations. The US Fulbright Scholar also was previously Apple's IPR enforcement counsel, during which he was responsible for the company's investigative programs on complex thefts, leaks, cybercrimes, and counterfeits.

Bassiur also specialised in Asian organised crime during a stint as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, and taught intellectual property law at Beijing's Renmin University.

Evans said: "His expertise in IP rights protection, policy creation and enforcement, as well as his deep familiarity with China, will complement our dedicated IPR enforcement team in China and help us to continue to globalise as a company, working with our brand, industry and government partners worldwide."