On Thursday, Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba announced a partnership with French luxury group Kering, the parent company of brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent.
The two companies had long been at odds. In 2015, Kering filed a lawsuit against Alibaba, alleging that it had knowingly allowed counterfeiters to sell their goods on its Taobao marketplace. In a seemingly abrupt about-face, Kering said last Thursday that it would be withdrawing the lawsuit and that the two companies would be creating a task force to protect Kering’s brands against counterfeiters.
Kering released a public statement on the agreement, noting that the two would “exchange useful information” and work with law enforcement to “take appropriate action against any infringers of Kering’s brands identified with Alibaba’s advanced technology capabilities.”
Numerous brands have criticized Alibaba for its lax approach to monitoring goods sold via its site. With increasing pressure to expand beyond the Chinese market, however, Alibaba has fought to improve its reputation abroad, starting with its relationship with foreign brands.
In January, Alibaba announced the creation of an ‘anti-counterfeiting alliance’ with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Samsung, and Swarovski. Jack Ma also hosted a conference in Detroit earlier this year in an effort to draw in more American vendors. The rapprochement between Alibaba and Kering is the latest move in the Chinese giant’s charm offensive abroad.
It's unclear whether Kering will begin to sell its goods via Alibaba's marketplace, which therefore begs the question—what caused the French group to change in approach? Besides money saved in litigation fees, data and information sharing with Alibaba will facilitate the monitoring of goods sold, enabling Kering to more easily bring those responsible to justice.