The trade mark dispute between e-commerce rivals Alibaba Group Holding and JD.com has intensified, after a letter from Alibaba which warned publishers to act with caution when marketing China’s annual ‘Singles Day’ spending spree using the ‘Double Eleven’ motif, was published on JD.com’s social media account.

The letter not only condemns a number of Alibaba’s unidentified rivals, but also indicated that if any media outlets featured advertisements with the ‘Double Eleven’ motif, they would be liable for trade mark infringement. 

Unless Chinese publishers were featuring official Alibaba promotions, they were cautioned not to use the ‘Double Eleven’ motif. Research conducted by Reuters indicated that Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba had registered approximately six trade marks that were linked to the ‘Double Eleven’ motif. 

‘Double Eleven’ refers to ‘Singles Day’ in China which occurs annually on the 11th of November. For ‘Singles Day’ unattached Chinese consumers are encouraged to purchase gifts for themselves, and much like the frenzy of ‘Black Friday’ in the United States, ‘Singles Day’ is one of the largest online shopping days in the world. 

Sales from last years event were estimated to have reached US$8 million dollars, with Alibaba processing approximately US$5.8 billion of the total number of transactions. It comes as no surprise therefore that competition between e-commerce firms peaks leading up to this event. 

JD.com announced on social media platform Weibo, that Alibaba’s warning to Chinese publishers was not in the interest of consumers and would limit their choices through unfair practice. 

Having debuted on Wall Street only last month, Alibaba is China’s largest e-commerce platform. Alibaba’s action provides further evidence that Chinese companies are becoming increasingly IP savvy and more inclined to use IP to gain advantage over their competition. 

If you have a business that is involved in consumer products, you should be looking at the opportunity on-line sales offers leading up to Singles Day - but seek our advice on avoiding conflict with Alibaba.