Thai company takes on Alibaba

Thailand's Elide Fire Ball Pro Company makes a fire-extinguishing ball sold in over 60 countries. It is patented by its Thai inventor and has won awards all over the world. Elide is now suing Hangzhou Alibaba Advertising Co and Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba personally for allegedly promoting the sale of fake goods. News reports are not clear but suggest the claim is the that fake goods infringe Elide’s patent.

Thailand’s government is driving innovation and the company sees this as a Thai IP holder fighting foreign IP violation. Thailand’s Central IP & IT Court will hear the case.  The specific allegation is that Alibaba is promoting the sale of the fake AFO fire-extinguishing balls, via its website. In addition its payment system AliExpress sells and delivers the fakes – on a global basis. They claim damages relating to safety of the fakes as well as lost sales.  

The case is interesting for several reasons. First according to news reports it is a patent case, and if so patent contributory liability should lay out some different issues from secondary liability for trademark and copyright infringing sales on the Internet. Secondly a Thai company suing a Chinese intermediary makes for some interesting dynamics.  The last reason that they are suing Jack Ma for personal liability makes for good headlines, but surely he had nothing to do with the acts personally.