August 25, 2016
Authored by: BCLP, Patrick McKey, Maria Vathis and Nancy Franco
A New York federal court recently held that defendant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (“Alibaba”), which is notorious for allegedly enabling the sale of counterfeit products, did not violate federal racketeering law by selling allegedly counterfeit products on its e-commerce venues.
Alibaba owns and operates the popular shopping sites Alibaba.com, Taobao.com, and AliExpress.com, and generated $248 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2014 – more than Amazon and eBay combined. Luxury fashion retailers, including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, filed suit against Alibabi and seven other corporate entities that had roles in online platforms through which Chinese merchants could connect with consumers worldwide.
The lawsuit alleges that fourteen Chinese merchants, also named as defendants, sold counterfeit products bearing plaintiffs’ marks in the Alibaba marketplaces. It further alleges that the Alibaba defendants provided the online marketing, data collection, payment processing, financing, and shipping services necessary to sell the products, even though they knew or should have known that the merchant defendants were selling counterfeit goods.
On August 4, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the Alibaba defendants’ motion to dismiss two claims asserted against them under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §1961 et seq. (“RICO”).
Plaintiffs’ first RICO claim was a substantive RICO claim brought pursuant to Section 1962(c), which makes it “unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in…interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s