U.S. drops China's Taobao website from "notorious" list

Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:48pm EST
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By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday dropped a website owned by China's largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group, from its annual list of the world's most "notorious markets" for sales of pirated and counterfeit goods.

Taobao Marketplace, an online shopping site similar to eBay and Amazon that brings together buyers and sellers, "has been removed from the 2012 List because it has undertaken notable efforts over the past year to work with rightholders directly or through their industry associations to clean up its site," the U.S. Trade Representative's office said in the report.

The move came just before an annual high-level U.S.-China trade meeting next week in Washington.

Taobao Marketplace is China's largest consumer-oriented e-commerce platform, with estimated market share of more than 70 percent. The website has nearly 500 million registered users, with more than 800 million product listings at any given time. Most of the users are in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called Taobao "one of the single largest online sources of counterfeits."

The Chinese Commerce Ministry strongly objected to Taobao's inclusion on the USTR's 2011 notorious markets list. A ministry spokesman said it did not appear to be based on any "conclusive evidence or detailed analysis.

Alibaba hired former USTR General Counsel James Mendenhall to help persuade USTR to remove Taobao from its list.

The Chinese company's bid to shed its "notorious" label won support from the Motion Picture Association of America, a former critic of Taobao, which praised its effort to reduce the availability of counterfeit goods on its website.   Continued...