Art Theft, Part 2: AliExpress & Alibaba

Originally posted on ohplesiosaur.com. Moved post here July 2019.

If you’ve found counterfeits of your pins online, chances are it started on AliExpress or Alibaba. Because many online sellers buy counterfeit pins at wholesale prices from these two websites, it’s important to cut the supply off at the source. I wrote recently about reporting infringement on other online retail websites. However, the process for Alibaba/AliExpress ((This also includes Alibaba-owned sites like Taobao, Tmall, and 1688.)) is a little more complicated and can be overwhelming.

So that’s where I come in! I’m going to try to make it a little easier with this walkthrough, and hopefully it will be a useful resource for other artists who are fighting art theft.

STEP 1: Create an account

  1. Go to Intellectual Property Protection on Alibaba and click on “Register”
  2. Fill in your email address, then click the activation link emailed to you

STEP 2: Verify your identity

  1. Choose your region: “others” ((For these steps, I’m assuming you’re not based in China.))
  2. Category of user identity: “Individual Outside Mainland China”
  3. Category of registrant: “Right Holder”
  4. Fill in your full legal name
  5. Fill in your mailing address or PO box ((If you’re not comfortable providing your address, PO boxes are available for rent at most post offices and UPS stores.))
  6. Type of identity proof: “Identity proof of applicant”
  7. Upload your identity proof. The instructions say that it must be a color photo or scan of your passport, but in my experience any government-issued photo ID will do. I used my drivers license.
  8. Save and submit.

STEP 3: Wait a while

It typically takes several days for Alibaba to manually review and approve your identity information. Until they complete this process, you won’t be able to do anything else yet. As soon as you have been approved, you will receive an email confirmation with the subject line “Identity proof has been successfully authenticated!”

STEP 4: Submit your IPR (Do this for each piece of art you’re protecting)

  1. Once your identity has been verified, log in and click “IPR submission” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select the IPR type: “Copyright”
  3. Choose the place of IPR registration: “Others”
  4. Click “next”
  5. Name of the work you submitted: Write the title of your work
  6. Serial/Registration number of the work you submitted: If you’ve registered the copyright for your work, put the registration number here. If you haven’t registered your copyright, ((Most countries don’t require copyright registration. Remember, you own the rights to your original work from the moment you create it.)) put N/A or “Registration not required in [your country]”.
  7. Copyright holder of the work you submitted: Your name (should match the identity info you provided)
  8. Upload your work and supporting documents: If you have a copyright registration certificate, upload that here. If you don’t have that, fill out the form they provide (or get it here) and upload that form plus images of your work. For evidence of publication to go along with that form, you may need a screenshot of the product listing on your website or the first time you posted it on Instagram, for instance. ((Caveat: I’ve never done it that way, since I always register my copyrights and provide the registration certificate. Others have told me they’ve successfully registered their work without a registration certificate, so I know it can be done! Let me know if I need to adjust any of these instructions based on your experience.))
  9. Submit for verification

STEP 5: Wait some more

This wait is usually a little quicker than the wait for identity verification. In my experience, it’s been 2-3 business days.

STEP 6: Submit complaints (the moment you’ve been waiting for!)

  1. Once your IPR has been authenticated, log in and click “Submit a complaint” in the left-hand menu
  2. Choose the complaint website where you found the counterfeits you’re reporting ((Most of mine are on Aliexpress, but I’ve found a few on Alibaba and Taobao.))
  3. Search for the counterfeit listing(s) or paste the URL. (As I mentioned in my earlier post, when I find infringing listings I add them to a spreadsheet right away, so all I have to do during this step is copy/paste the list into the “Option 2” field.) These should all be for counterfeits of a single design. ((You can repeat the complaint process if you need to report counterfeits of another design as well.))
  4. Click “Submit Listings”
  5. The links you submitted will automatically fill the next page. Select all them and click “Continue”.
  6. Choose IPR: Select the IPR that matches the listings you submitted
  7. Choose complaint reason: Pirated copy
  8. Complaint reason: I usually write “This is an exact counterfeit copy of my original work.” If your situation is different, just be sure you explain concisely and clearly.
  9. Upload proof of infringement: I don’t upload anything because they already have my copyright registration certificate and the infringing URL, so I’m not sure if you need to do this.
  10. Click “Match”

STEP 7: Check back in a few days

You probably won’t get an email confirmation when they’ve removed the reported listings, so I like to check back to make sure the listings have actually been taken down.

  1. Log in
  2. Click on “Manage complaints”
  3. Choose the website
  4. Click on “History” in the left-hand menu.

You’ll see a list of your past complaints. To the right of each of them, it’ll either say “In progress”, “Listing removed”, or “Unable to process”. “In progress” means they’re still reviewing it, “listing removed” means it’s been taken down for good and the seller has been penalized, and “unable to process” usually means that the seller removed it before they were able to investigate.

That’s it! I know it seems daunting at first, but most of the work is just setting up your account and one-time verifications. After that, all you need to do is step 6 (submit complaints) and boom! Once I started reporting AliExpress sellers, I noticed an immediate decrease in counterfeits across all websites where I normally see them.

One final note. I strongly recommend against contacting AliExpress or Alibaba sellers directly. Intellectual property theft is a crime and should be reported through Alibaba’s intellectual property protection system. When you submit an official complaint, there are consequences for sellers. ((Alibaba uses a points system. Every time you report a listing that infringes your copyright, that seller receives 6 penalty points. Their listings will be suppressed in search if they continue to receive points. After 48 cumulative points, their account will be terminated. So basically, each Alibaba seller has 8 chances to stop counterfeiting. I think that’s more than fair.)) If enough artists report the same seller, that seller could lose their selling privileges altogether– a serious situation for most manufacturers of counterfeits. The threat of account removal is a very strong disincentive, and my hope is that counterfeiting activity will decrease over time as a result.

If we all work together, we can make life better for artists everywhere!

Did this guide work for you? Have any questions or additions? Let me know in the comments!

14 Responses

  1. Patti
    | Reply

    Wow! Great post again, thank you for all the info and steps.

  2. The Pickety Witch
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this!!! It helped me so much and I managed to file a complaint. I couldn’t have done it without your guidance!

  3. Christine Hendry
    | Reply

    Wow, you are a rockstar for writing this up and guiding other artists. Thank you for the information!

  4. Wildlife Bronzes
    | Reply

    This is amazing information. They are advertising my monumental sculptures and one of the photos even had ME sitting on MY horse monument! They have several more of mine listed now and I will follow your recipe here. Thank you!

  5. Lauren
    | Reply

    Have you run into or heard of anyone running into this problem?

    I have been approved for my trademark protection through Alibaba’s system, but after I submit my complaint, I receive the email message, “If you have purchased the seller’s product and identified it as counterfeit or pirated, please provide an authentication report that is stamped/signed by the authorized person. The report should contain the following information: the member names of the buyer and the seller; order number(s); specific listings; photos of the items purchased; details of the authentication methods used; and authentication results. We will verify the report upon receipt. ”

    I provided them with what I consider to be a clear case with images and information proving the product for sale violated my trademark. I created my own version of an authentication report, but they still will not accept it. Any advice?

    • Serena
      | Reply

      This may be a trademark-specific issue. I haven’t had experience reporting trademark violation on the IPP platform, only copyright. It’s fairly standard in trademark infringement cases to require a purchase for verification.

  6. tiffy
    | Reply

    Definitely bookmarking this page, thank you so much!

  7. Ranqi Li
    | Reply

    thank you for the help :>!

  8. Rosa Pietsch
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this! This has been so helpful. I submitted complaints and items were taken down, however the seller has now responded with a ‘counter complaint’ saying it’s their own design, along with screengrabs of their vector art (it’s clearly a direct tracing of mine, there’s absolutely no arguing against that) – I apparently have 3 days to ask AliExpress to intervene again, but there is no option anywhere on the IPR management page to do this. I’m at a bit of a loss! Any idea what I can do to fight back? Thanks so much!

    • serena
      | Reply

      There should be an option in the IPP platform to reject the counter complaint. Just click that and you should be good to go!

  9. Holly
    | Reply

    Most helpful article on the internet regarding this! Thank you so much!

  10. WitchPins
    | Reply

    I’ve just been trying to fill all of this out to have something removed from Aliexpress, but I’ve hit a wall and I’m not sure how to get past it. I’m in Canada, so we don’t register our copyright, but at the point where it asks for “Serial/Registration number of the work you submitted:” in Step 4, it won’t accept N/A or Registration not required in Canada, it just gives me an error that says “Don’t re-submit the same number of the IPR.”

    I tried removing all spaces and using other responses, but nothing works. I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I can’t proceed from here on these forms. 🙁 If anyone else ran into this and knows a quick work around, please let me know?? They’re selling more of my pins than I am aaa.

    I’m at @WitchPins on instagram.

    Regardless, thanks so much for taking the time to create and share this guide!

    • Serena
      | Reply

      If you’ve already registered a designs in the IPP platform with ‘registration not required’ text, you’ll need to slightly change that text– otherwise Alibaba thinks that it’s an identical registration number. Change it up a little each time and you should be good to go!

  11. Natalia
    | Reply

    Thank you, Thank you!!!!

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