BY DON GASPER
Jack Ma Yun, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., said on a visit to South Korea on May 19 that he regretted a lawsuit filed by French luxury fashion brands alleging his company turned a blind eye to counterfeit goods.
The lawsuit was filed on May 15 in New York, by Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by France’s Kering SA. It alleges that Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce company by sales, knowingly allows and profits from the sale of fakes on its websites.
“We regret the companies’ choice to sue us and not to co-operate with us to fight against counterfeit goods,” said Ma, complaining that the lawsuit was “creating internal conflict” rather than co-operation to fight the “common enemy”. .
“We continue to work in partnership with numerous brands to help them protect their intellectual property, and we have a strong track record of doing so,” an Alibaba spokeswoman said earlier. “Unfortunately, Kering Group has chosen the path of wasteful litigation instead of the path of constructive cooperation. We believe this complaint has no basis and we will fight it vigorously.”
Alibaba and its entities “provide the marketplace advertising and other essential services necessary for counterfeiters to sell their counterfeit products to customers in the United States,” the lawsuit says, according to a Reuters report.
According to a Alibaba Group fact sheet, the company has a “zero-tolerance policy” toward fakes on its sites, and co-operated in more than 1,000 counterfeiting cases last year.
The company has launched a series of initiatives to bar counterfeit goods from its platforms after complaints by trademark owners. It has 2,000 employees tasked with anti-counterfeiting and spent RMB I billion ($161.4 million U.S.) on that in 2013-14.
Though long criticized by others for not doing enough to stop the sale of counterfeits, Alibaba has also attracted many top multinational sellers to its sites, including Disney this month.
Concerns over fake products on Alibaba’s platforms, including online marketplace Taobao, have dogged it for years, although the U.S. Trade Representative removed Taobao from its list of “notorious markets” in 2012 in view of progress made.
The latest lawsuit marks the second time in less than a year that the Kering brands have sued Alibaba over the alleged sale of counterfeit products.
An earlier lawsuit was filed in July 2014 but was withdrawn the same month with the ability to refile it while the Kering units worked toward a resolution with Alibaba, according to court records.
The lawsuit alleged that Alibaba and its related entities “provide the marketplace advertising and other essential services necessary for counterfeiters to sell their counterfeit products to customers in the United States.”
The lawsuit cited, for example, an alleged fake Gucci bag offered for $2 to $5 each by a Chinese merchant to buyers seeking at least 2,000 units. The authentic Gucci bag retails for $795, the complaint said.
The lawsuit alleged that Alibaba had allowed for counterfeit sales to continue even when it had been expressly informed that merchants were selling fake products.
It seeks a court order that, among other things, would block Alibaba from offering or facilitating the sale of counterfeit products and calls for unspecified damages that could include $2 per counterfeit item under a statutory regime.
The case is Gucci America Inc v. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-03784.
One thing working in Alibaba’s favor (at least in the United States) is the 2008 court ruling for an EBay/Tiffany suit declaring that it is the responsibility of a trademark owner (rather than a marketplace) to find counterfeit goods and issue takedown requests.
Separately, Alibaba Group has unveiled its latest weapon in the fight against fake products. To fend off problems with distributing counterfeit products, the company is launching a new program involving unique stamps called “dotless visual codes” for its goods.
Referred to as the Blue Stars program, this is an initiative that aims at creating a QR code ‘ID card’ for each and every product item, so as to connect billions of products with their end consumers. Product manufacturers participating in the program are enabled to generate a unique QR code for each individual product item (e.g. each bottle of water) to be sold online or offline. By using the Mobile Taobao or Tmall.com app to scan the code on an item purchased, consumers can review information on the origin of the product from the manufacturer or participate in lucky draws, special promotions, member rewards programs, etc.
“One application of the Blue Stars program is to help consumers confirm the authenticity of the product they have purchased,” an Alibaba spokesperson told AIM Group. “They can do so by scanning the QR code on a product using the Mobile Taobao app or Tmall.com app. Also, through Alibaba Group’s backend data system, product manufacturers can track the number of times and the locations where the unique QR codes on their products have been scanned. In cases where a counterfeiter duplicates a unique QR code to produce multiple copies of the product for sale, the original product manufacturer will be able to swiftly identify the approximate location of the counterfeiter and take the necessary action.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is poised to launch a marketplace to rival Etsy for buyers and sellers of handmade goods.
Etsy sellers were invited to a preview of Amazon’s new service, called simply Handmade, the WSJ said.
Rumors circulated in late April that Amazon was readying a site for handmade crafts.
It will be interesting how Amazon will position the service, or whether it can dislodge Etsy’s predominance in the sector. The WSJ pointed out that Etsy collects 3.5 percent of each sale and charges a 20-cent listing fee. Currently, Amazon takes 15 percent of marketplace sales.
Later this quarter Amazon plans to launch a home-services site to compete against Angie’s List.
Online auto retailer Carvana reported year-over growth of more than 1,000 percent. It also reported it doubled capacity with expansion of operations in Texas.
“The response from customers to buy a car online has been so overwhelming, that we have made an investment in a new facility that enables us to sell thousands of more cars per month,” said Ernie Garcia, Carvana’s founder and CEO. “With sales already in 39 states, we are excited to further support the demand for online car buying with a larger inventory and bigger presence outside the Southeast.”
The Dallas-area facility joins the company’s Atlanta location to recondition used cars, store and deliver vehicles.
Here’s the full release.
JobAndTalent.com co-founders Juan Urdiales and Felipe Navío were named ‘Entrepreneurs of the Year’ by technology consultancy GP Bullhound.
GP Bullhound, which provides independent strategic advice on mergers and acquisitions and private placements to entrepreneurs, companies and investors, honored Urdiales and Navío for JobAndTalent’s rapid growth and its potential to penetrate the global online market.
The recruitment site has a unique model that reverses the usual job search process. Instead of looking for jobs users upload their resume and the site’s proprietary algorithm searches for relevant jobs and notifies the user.
JobAndTalent was founded in Spain in 2009, and initially had sites for Spain and the U.K.. Since receiving $14 million U.S. in investment funding in 2014. it has expanded rapidly and now operates in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela and Germany.
Juan Urdiales said the award was especially meaningful, because it recognized the years of work and effort that have gone into creating JobAndTalent.
Click on screenshot to enlarge:
DoneDeal, Ireland’s leading classifieds site, sent a notice to its users reiterating its safety guidelines, after an upsurge in fraudulent activity on its website. Galway-based criminals are assumed to be behind the activities.
Local newspaper Connacht Triune reported Finbarr Garland, DoneDeal’s customer safety officer, is working closely with the police in Galway investigating the recent wave of scammers targeting its site.
Scammers dupe buyers into lodging money directly to bank accounts for goods that don’t exist. People from all over Galway have been lured into depositing money into various accounts in city banks with the promise of much sought-after concert tickets, or expensive auto parts.
Several people have appeared before the courts in Galway City charged with defrauding unsuspecting buyers, and more are due to appear before the courts in the coming weeks.
Garland said people should read the site’s Top Safety Tips and Buying Event Tickets links, which will help prevent them from falling prey to fraudsters. “In particular, people should be very wary of depositing money into a bank account before they have the goods,” he urged.
The website, he said, has tracking systems which can help in identifying those who seek to exploit it for fraudulent and criminal purposes, and it is these processes which have been instrumental in bringing criminals to book.
The New York Times last week ran an article about Canadian general classified leader Kijiji. The piece doesn’t reveal any new directions for the company, but it provides a good summary for newcomers to the Canadian classified scene.
Among the data points:
- 12 million people visit Kijij’s website in Canada every month, which is triple Craigslist’s traffic there.
- There are 6.7 million listings on the site. 4.6 million of those are vehicles, which is one of only two sections on the site to charge a fee. (Rental properties also pay.)
- Kijiji employs 60 people just to search listings for fraud.
The Times article compares Kijiji to social media pioneer Friendster which fizzled in the U.S. but found success elsewhere (in Friendster’s case, in the Philippines and Malaysia). Kijiji “is now practically synonymous with classifieds” in Canada, writes The Times’ Ian Austen.
Kijiji launched in Canada not so much from some master plan by its owner EBay than through the desire of an EBay executive to move back to her native Canada in 2004, the article notes. Janet Bannister had joined EBay in California as director of category development. When she decided to return to Canada with her family, she was put in charge of the Canadian version of the site.
She quickly discovered that “Canadians generally do not like auction-based pricing.” On top of that, she found that “because Canada’s vast geography and low population density make shipping costs high and delivery times long, buyers of secondhand goods preferred to make deals in person.
Bannister cooked up the idea for classifieds instead of auctions and EBay contributed some startup cash. But EBay insisted on using the name Kijiji, which “horrified” Bannister. The name stuck and Canadians were considerably less mortified.
Kijiji differentiated itself from Craigslist, the Times article notes, by focusing on young families. Craigslist was used in Canada at the time mainly by young men looking for accommodations or to place personal ads.
Today, the service is used by 42 percent of Canadians, according to Comscore, making it one of the country’s top ten sites.
The full article is here.
A survey conducted by Rightmove, the U.K.’s largest real estate website, revealed that 84 percent of parents would consider moving house to be near a good school. In addition, nine out of ten parents consider the quality of local state schools, when choosing the location for a new home.
As a result, Rightmove partnered with Schoolguide.co.uk to add a new feature called School checker to all of it property listings. Schoolguide’s data enables Rightmove to link key statistics on 30,000 schools with around 90 percent of all homes for sale via estate agents across the U.K..
School checker displays catchment areas, as well as the latest Ofsted* rating for schools with a comparison table for all schools in the immediate vicinity of the chosen property.
The tool enables site users to search for homes near the right school by providing the academic inspection report, along with the chances of new pupils being granted admission to a school. Users can click through the guide for a more detailed look at the school’s inspection report and performance.
Victoria Bond, CEO and founder of School Guide, says: “Finding the right home near the right school can be a minefield and, until now, there has not been a destination that connects the two. We are delighted to partner with Rightmove to empower users by putting the highest quality property and school data at their fingertips.”
James Micklethwait, Rightmove’s head of product development, comments: “Given how important local schools are to many home-hunters, we’re really excited about the launch of our new School checker. This is a resource which will provide home-hunters with valuable schools information (including catchment indicators), not available anywhere else. By partnering with School Guide we’ve been able to bring all of the information together in one place to help people who’ve had to search across a number of sources to find the right home near the right school.”
*Ofsted is the Government Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The office inspects, regulates and rates services that care for and provide education for children and young people.
Robin Voogd’s tenure as general manager of Gumtree U.K. has come to an end. Voogd served as operations manager at Gumtree for three months in 2011, before he was appointed to the position of general manager. He departed already in April this year.
He is currently on gardening leave, and unable to confirm details of any new appointment. Voogds’ previous appointments include general manager at LeasePlan Emirates, and regional financial controller for Shell Gas (LPG).
A spokesperson of Gumtree U.K. confirmed that Voogd had left “to pursue opportunities outside of Ebay Inc”.
“We are actively searching for a new general manager for Gumtree in the U.K.,” the person added.
Gumtree.com was launched in March 2000 by former bankers Michael Pennington and Simon Crookall and acquired by Ebay’s classifieds group in May 2005 for an undisclosed sum. The Ebay Classifieds Group has eleven brands that span the globe.
Despite the high potential of the Turkish online auto market, only a few sites focus on autos in Turkey. One of them is Oto.net, which launched back in December 2013.
The site belongs to ProjectZ, a company known for its technology investments. It also has an angel investor, with a 10-percent stake in Oto.net.
Yonca Zaimoglu, who is one of the partners of ProjectZ, was convinced of the idea while working in Silicon Valley. So, she designed Oto.net to target both b-to-b business and b-to-c/c-to-c business. On Oto.net companies can sell their used fleet autos quickly on the b-to-b side.
Auto rental companies, companies with auto fleets, auto dealers, banks and public institutions that want to sell their autos, can sell them to used vehicle galleries and auto dealers nationwide. The c-to-c and b-to-c sections launched in October 2014, and are aimed at private users. They have since proven themselves to be healthy contributors to the financial performance of Oto.net.
Oto.net launched a loyalty program (called OtoPuan) and marketing campaigns for b-to-b to shake up the market. These activities helped Oto.net to convince consumers who have in the past said they would not buy autos online.
Forty percent of Oto.net users live outside Istanbul and 35 percent of sales are concluded outside the city of Istanbul.
U.K.-based job search engine Adzuna took the unusual step (in the classifieds industry at least) of inviting individuals to become shareholders in the business, when it launched a crowdfunding campaign on the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube earlier this week.
Adzuna hopes to raise 1.5 million pounds sterling ($2.3 million U.S.) from the crowd for 5.89 percent of the company. The fund-raising campaign will run for another 41 days.
By midday today (Thursday) 62 people (or firms) had invested 656,000 pound sterling, with 200,000 pounds sterling coming from one of them. Adzuna has the ambitious aim of “listing every job, everywhere” in the world. Apart from the U.K., it has sites in ten other countries (where, you’ll see at bottom of Adzuna home page).
It’s free to list a job on Adzuna. The advertiser is charged on a cost-per-click basis (as on Indeed).
As is the way of crowdfunding platforms, the firm looking for investors has to publish as much information as possible on the platform, to help the individual make an informed decision before investing. Adzuna also did that. You’ll find its “prospectus” here.
Here is an extract: what Adzuna wants to do with the money it raised.
Why are we fundraising?
Your investment will help us improve our service, ensuring we can offer the best possible experience to job seekers and job advertisers. This will include improving our offering on mobiles and tablets, adding new tools and extending our existing ones to help match users to a better, more fulfilling job. It will also allow us to grow our team and extend our reach through additional marketing and advertising both in the U.K. and internationally.
The market in which we operate is estimated to be worth $9 billion (Forbes/LinkedIn) and growing and we aim to grow our revenues substantially in the coming four years, so there is a lot to do.
Two years ago, we raised investment from three of the U.K.’s leading venture capital firms, namely Passion Capital, The Accelerator Group, and Index Ventures. That money has helped us expand our team, develop great features and grow our marketing spend to tell more people about our service, and we believe we’ve spent it wisely. We believe that with more money we can do even more.
Our existing investors have already committed £300,000 to the round, and we also believe that a wider group of investors can act as cheerleaders for us and help get the word out even more.
As a shareholder in Adzuna, you would be part of our company’s journey to get Britain working, and enjoy the rewards alongside our team and existing investors as our business grows.