Alibaba Group’s Taobao online marketplace has filed a suit against a pet-food seller, seeking almost $380,000 in damages and legal fees. The company alleges that the vendor sold counterfeit kitten chow through its virtual Taobao store in violation of the e-commerce platform’s rules.
Alibaba claims that the defendant broke several Taobao regulations prohibiting the sale of trademark-infringing merchandise including counterfeit packs of Royal Canin brand pet food. Taobao asked the Shanghai Fengxian District People’s Court to compel the defendant to compensate it for its total direct and indirect economic losses, loss of goodwill and legal fees. Taobao is also asking the court to compel the defendant to publish a written apology in several prominent print and Web publications for a week.
Earlier this year, Alibaba sued two vendors for selling alleged knock-offs of Swarovski watches, seeking about $201,320 for violation of contract and goodwill, highlighting the company’s new approach to fighting off vendors who sell counterfeit products through its online platforms.
The discovery of the illegal sales in the pet food case arose through a “mystery shopping” program that comprises one part of Alibaba’s overall system of intellectual property rights protection, Taobao bought a suspected fake bag of “Royal Canin” brand kitten food and sent it to the brand rights holder, Mars Petcare, and its China representative. The bag’s packaging and verification codes checked out, but on further inspection, Mars Petcare found tampering to the packaging and that the contents were fake, Taobao said in its court filing.
On Oct. 12, 2016, after a joint investigation with Taobao and Mars, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Baoshan Branch arrested the defendant on suspicion of selling counterfeit goods and seized product suspected of trademark infringement.
Taobao alleges that the defendant began selling pet food on its platform in January 2015.
The case is currently pending.