Snapdeal, one of India’s largest e-commerce platforms, along with four Indian shopping complexes, two of them in New Delhi alone, have figured in the latest 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy issued by the Office of the US Trade Representative.
The four Indian markets that have found mention in the list are Heera Panna in Mumbai, Kidderpore in Kolkata and Palika Bazaar and Tank Road in Delhi.
Aizawl’s Millennium Center was mentioned in the last list of notorious markets, but now it has been replaced by Palika Bazaar.
“Holding intellectual property rights violators accountable and ensuring that American innovators and creators have a full and fair opportunity to use and profit from their work is critical for both physical and online markets,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said.
In addition to addressing the role of e-commerce in facilitating the sale of pirated and counterfeit goods, the 2020 Review of Notorious Markets identifies 39 online markets and 34 physical markets that are reported to be engaged in or have facilitated substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.
The report includes for the first time a section addressing the role of internet platforms in facilitating the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods into the United States.
“Today, the greatest risk of importation of counterfeit and pirated goods, harming both US content creators and US consumers, is posed not by foreign flea markets and dark web sites but by inadequate policies and inadequate action by e-commerce companies that market and sell foreign products to American consumers,” Lighthizer said.
“Combatting piracy and counterfeits will require sustained effort by both the federal government and by companies that profit from the sale of such goods,” the official said.
Although the majority of counterfeit goods seized by American law enforcement agencies originate in China and Hong Kong ?- 92 per cent by value – the problem is global, with additional major points of origin, including India, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, the report said.
The USTR said Snapdeal remains a concern for right holders who report that the volume of counterfeit products on this platform has increased over the past year.
“According to a November 2018 survey, 37 per cent of purchasers reported that they had received a counterfeit product from Snapdeal. In July 2019, Snapdeal”s founders were accused of criminal conduct in India for selling counterfeit products there. Right holders have also sued Snapdeal for selling counterfeit goods,” it said.
The USTR said Heera Panna, a major indoor market located at the heart of Mumbai, reportedly offers high quality counterfeit watches, footwear, apparel, accessories, and cosmetics. Right holders warn that counterfeit cosmetics sold at this market have health and safety risks.
Locally known as “Fancy Market”, Kidderpore in Kolkata reportedly sells counterfeit consumer electronics, apparel, cosmetics, and pirated software and media, often at wholesale quantities, the report said.
Palika Bazaar, the underground market in Delhi is reportedly well-known for the trade of counterfeit products. Many shoppers are reportedly students and other young people who want trendy products at cheap prices. The market is also a popular destination for tourists, the USTR said.
According to the report, Tank Road continues to sell counterfeit products, including apparel and footwear. Wholesale counterfeit goods are also reportedly supplied from this market to other Indian markets, including Gaffar Market and Ajmal Khan Road.
Right holders report that conducting enforcement actions at this location is expensive and challenging, and sellers often appear to have advanced knowledge of raids, limiting their effectiveness, it said.
Official Snapdeal Statement
“The report released by USTR tarnishes the image of world’s leading marketplaces, including Amazon, Mercado Libre, Pinduoduo, Shopee, Snapdeal, Taobao, Tokopedia and many others basis incorrect understanding of the practices and the laws applicable to various markets.
The report reflects a poor understanding of the governing law in various jurisdictions, including India. While Courts in India continue to uphold and assert the distinction between marketplaces and sellers, the USTR report wilfully blurs this distinction to further a flawed point of view. In doing so, it ignores clear and well-established regulatory and legal frameworks under which marketplaces operate.
The comments made with regard to Snapdeal are factually incorrect and repeat the falsehoods contained in the 2019 report, which Snapdeal had strongly rebutted. The lack of diligence is evident in including reference to related sites that have ceased to operate four years ago.
The report omits to mention the various on-going, proactive & preventive anti-counterfeiting efforts of Snapdeal. These include Snapdeal’s robust reporting and swift takedown process program – Brand Shield, which has been in operation now for more than 2 years. This has led to close and effective collaboration with leading national & international brands, building on which Snapdeal has formed alliances with various brands to provide additional protection for brands with registered trademarks.
The report also fails to acknowledge the continuing close co-operation between platforms, brands and law-enforcement agencies, all of which have led to significant and productive outcomes.
The USTR report reflects a blinkered and flawed view of the world. The report not only fails to make a distinction between the respective roles of brands, sellers and platforms, but also wilfully ignores the applicable laws in various jurisdictions, including in India.
The report is also factually incorrect on many counts. There have been no criminal accusations against the founders for selling counterfeit products. Such negligent statements and unverified reporting by USTR is defamatory and unacceptable.
The process of collating inputs by USTR continues to be outdated, opaque and based on unverified inputs. We firmly disagree with the “findings” of the report, specifically in its observations relating to Snapdeal.”
(With PTI inputs)