Alibaba founder says fake goods have 'no place' on his site

Jack Ma writes a lengthy editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

AP Photo / Michael Euler

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has written an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, restating his stance on pirated goods. Last week, while speaking at an investor conference, the WSJ quoted Ma as saying that counterfeit products are "of better quality and better price than the real names." However, the chairman has now taken to the paper to say that his statement was taken out of context, and that hooky goods have "no place on Alibaba." Indeed, Ma says that his company has "zero tolerance" for "those who rip off other people's intellectual property," adding that copycat goods is "akin to thievery."

He admits, however, that the dynamics of the market have changed and that's left something of an opening for device pirates. He explains that Chinese manufacturers face "declining exports because demand from Western markets is not what it used to be." Since westerners aren't buying as many objects, these factories are often laying dormant, which is no way to run a successful or sustainable business. Ma adds that firms have "made investments in factories, equipment and people" that "must find new ways to adapt to this changing environment."

The founder has also affirmed his company's proactive stance in dealing with pirates, saying that for every hooky purse Gucci identifies, Alibaba will have shot down a further eight. But there's an interesting twist in the editorial, which is how Ma's stance on piracy shifts between the third and ninth paragraph. Up top, he's talking about Chinese factories using tooling and raw materials from brand-name clients to keep the lights on. But further down, he describes the fight against piracy as a "battle against human greed." Either way, Alibaba's public position is anti-piracy, combined with a drive to "work together with brands" to get ahead of the copycats.