The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and its division, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), are urging the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to identify popular websites and physical marketplaces known to traffic in counterfeit goods on its annual Notorious Market Report.
Among the websites that MEMA specifically requests be considered for the list are business-to-business web portal Alibaba.com, its consumer portal AliExpress.com, and its consumer-to-consumer portal TaoBao.com. Alibaba.com connects Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers and is the world’s largest retailer, AliExpress.com is an online retail service made up of mostly small Chinese businesses offering products to international online buyers, and TaoBao.com, which functions like eBay.com, is reported to be one of the 20 most-visited sites globally and features nearly a billion products. All three sites are selling counterfeit automotive parts, MEMA and its members argue.
“This is a big problem in the mobility industry, and we need to take action,” said MEMA president and CEO Steve Handschuh. “Counterfeit goods, offered as genuine brands and readily available on popular websites, hurt our economy, put our companies and jobs at risk and imperil public safety.”
“Counterfeit parts harm suppliers and rob them of valuable intellectual property rights,” said Bill Long, president and chief operating officer of AASA, the light vehicle aftermarket division of MEMA. “But perhaps more importantly, they pose a threat to motorists and repair technicians who unknowingly may install inferior and potentially dangerous parts on their vehicles.”
While these and other online sites have been listed in the Notorious Market Report in the past, the USTR removed TaoBao.com from the list in 2012 with the stipulation that it “decrease the time required for taking down listings of counterfeit and pirated goods and to … achieve a satisfactory outcome with U.S. rights holders and industry associations.” In 2016, after significant input from MEMA and other stakeholders, USTR did not list Alibaba.com or its affiliated websites in the 2015 Report but did specifically direct Alibaba to undertake “stronger and more efficient systems for addressing right holders’ concerns . . . without delay.”
“Urgings by USTR have not proven to be enough,” Handschuh noted. “MEMA member companies continue to experience misrepresentation by Alibaba and its platform websites in dealing with suspected counterfeit products. Despite MEMA member companies attempts to engage and build relationships with Alibaba, counterfeit motor vehicle parts bearing unauthorized trademarks are still sold on the sites.”
MEMA will continue to work with the USTR and enforcement agencies on addressing sales of counterfeit parts to protect the intellectual property rights and brand reputations of its motor vehicle parts supplier members.