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‘Widespread Concerns’

Trade Groups Ask USTR to Add Meta to Counterfeit Markets List

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative should add Meta to its 2022 Notorious Markets List (see 2202170053) due to the proliferation of counterfeit goods on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and WhatsApp, trade groups told the agency in comments last week.

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USTR posted comments Friday in preparation for its latest notorious markets list, which identifies online and physical markets that allegedly help facilitate trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) and the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) recommended USTR add Meta to the list.

IACC members include Apple, the Entertainment Software Association, Motion Picture Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, the FDA, Activision and Adobe. TRACIT members include Hewlett Packard, Universal Music Group and Baker McKenzie. IACC noted “widespread concerns among its members” concerning Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and WhatsApp: “Given the global reach of Meta’s ecosystem,” IACC supports Meta’s addition to the list. IACC highlighted concerns about Meta’s “poorly functioning” and “rudimentary” reporting tools and the widespread promotion of counterfeit sellers on Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook Marketplace has made improvements but still ranks high in counterfeit sales, said TRACIT, noting several trade associations recommended Facebook and Instagram for the 2021 list, as well. TRACIT noted high numbers of counterfeits, lack of “proactive measures” and lack of seller vetting on Meta’s platforms. TRACIT highlighted similar concerns from the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, Intellectual Property Owner’s Association and Union de Fabricants in France. Meta didn’t comment.

TRACIT recommended USTR add Amazon, which was removed from the 2021 list. TRACIT highlighted issues on Amazon’s foreign websites, which is what landed the company on the list initially. Amazon said it “strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where people can find and discover the widest possible selection of authentic goods.” The company noted that in 2021 it “filed civil litigation in U.S. courts against more than 170 counterfeiters and sued or referred more than 600 suspected bad actors for investigation in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and China.” Amazon noted its removal of more than 3 million counterfeit goods in 2021.

Groups noted the proliferation and promotion of counterfeit goods on China-based platforms Alibaba and WeChat. Alibaba’s policies and practices “meet or exceed” U.S. and international standards, and there’s “no basis” for placing any of the company’s platforms on the 2022 list, Alibaba commented. The Music Artists Coalition noted AliExpress was included on the 2021 list because of a “significant increase in counterfeit goods,” calling it “one of the largest online notorious markets for the sale of counterfeit and bootleg merchandise items.” For example, a quick search of the artist Machine Gun Kelly turns up hundreds of unlicensed products, MAC said. The AAFA singled out Alibaba Cloud, noting it only honors takedown requests after costly appeals with the ICANN and litigation.