The U.S. government announced on Thursday that Taobao Marketplace, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has been removed from its yearly list of the world’s most “notorious markets,” a distinction they earned for being rampant with pirated and counterfeit goods.
The report from the Office of the United States Trade Representative said Taobao “has worked with rights holders to significantly decrease the listing of infringing products for sale through its website, and has committed to continue working to streamline its complaint procedures to further reduce listings of counterfeit products.” In addition, Chinese search engine Sogou, operated by leading Chinese Internet company Sohu, was taken off the list “based on reports that it has also made notable efforts to work with rights holders to address the availability of infringing content on its site.”
The move may be more of a diplomatic strategy, however, than a sign that there has been any progress in the disappearance of knock-offs (there are still plenty of suspiciously cheap Coach, Louis Vuitton and Hermes items on Taobao, for example). This year’s U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, where topics such as “enforcement of intellectual property rights” are on the table, is scheduled to take place next week. Back in January, China’s Commerce Ministry expressed “strong concern and dissatisfaction” about Taobao’s inclusion on the list and called on the U.S. to “make fair assessments and avoid creating unnecessary negative effects for Chinese companies.” Taobao and Sogou’s return to grace might make discussions at the meeting a little bit less tedious.
Another Chinese company that did time on the “notorious markets” list is search behemoth Baidu (known as China’s Google), which was removed from the list in 2011 after striking an agreement with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Corp. to pay owners of copyrighted material found on its social-music platform.