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Alibaba Protects e-Commerce Lead with the Trademark Card

The Chinese media revealed on June 1, 2015 that Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse had registered 海淘 or “Hai Tao”, which generally refers to consumers who buy products via overseas online shopping platforms, as their trademark.


If “Hai Tao” were approved as the sole trademark of Alibaba, other internet merchants, including JD.com, Jumei and Vipshop as well as a number of U.S. merchants such as Amazon, Gilt and Macy’s would be restricted using the very word when rolling out promotion for the all the more important Chinese cross border shopping market. The likelihood of Alibaba’s full possession of “Hai Tao” remains low though.


Alibaba was first recorded to file for the “Hai Tao” trademark with one of its subsidiaries in China’s Hunan province in 2010. For its part, Alibaba’s effort amounted to a muscular effort to protect its lead on a hugely important market of cross border e-commerce for high-end Chinese consumers.


At this writing, Alibaba has claimed that the media coverage doesn’t tally with the facts and is not available for further comments.


China’s largest online direct sales company JD.com, in response to this news, has played down the significance of the wording. It emphasizes the premium quality of the products it carries, and claims that “Hai Tao” reflects an activity that searches for cheap products online.


Last fall, upon China’s annual “Singles Day” spree, a trademark spat between Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com flared into public view. Tmall said in a letter, which was made public by JD.com, that “Double Eleven” is a registered trademark.


According to South China Morning Post, “Double Eleven” is a descriptive term that has multiple meanings in the public domain such as a date and a festival celebrated by single people. The promotional slogan “Double Eleven” or 1111 is also the same with The One Foundation’s (壹基金) charitable slogan “1111”. The trademark’s distinctiveness was debatable—thus it would be unlikely for Alibaba to sue any company over trademark infringement.


According to Sina, a Chinese news network with more than 100 million registered users, “Hai Tao” is of a similar case with “Double Eleven”.




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