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Exchange Meeting between QBPC and Tencent WeChat Team

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PRC Gov. Agencies
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Exchange Meeting between QBPC and Tencent WeChat Team

    Technology has changed our lives. WeChat has become the main platform for information sharing and communication, which enables us to know the whole world, make friends and discuss global affairs without going outside. WeChat makes our lives convenient, but unfortunately, it is used by those who are dishonest and lawless, and becomes a trading platform of counterfeit goods that is plaguing QBPC member companies.
    In order to protect the safety and interests of consumers, and safeguard the rights and interests of right holders, the Exchange Meeting on Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Protection between QBPC and Tencent WeChat was held in Shanghai on the afternoon of September 2, 2017. 55 members from QBPC and four representatives from the Legal Affairs Department of Tencent WeChat attended the meeting and carried out pragmatic communication.
    Steven Wang, Vice Chairman of QBPC, chaired the meeting. He reviewed the development of China’s IPR protection and the challenges and opportunities, earnestly hoping that QBPC and Tencent WeChat work together to jointly promote the progress of IPR protection.
    He Jiahe, Senior Legal Counsel of Tencent WeChat made a keynote speech on the current situation of WeChat’s IPR protection. The speech has detailed contents, reflecting Tencent’s emphasis on IPR protection. The main contents of He Jiahe’s speech are as follows:
    (1) WeChat now boasts 963 million users, among which monthly active users reach 549 million. Tencent pays much attention to IPR protection, and has issued the White Paper on Tencent’s IPR Protection.
    (2) In order to prevent the lawbreakers from posting counterfeit goods information on WeChat, WeChat now has established a complaint mechanism of IPR infringement, taking “punishment plus education” measures to deal with the counterfeiters and infringers and taking “removal plus disable” measures to stop the spread of the information on counterfeiting and infringement.
    (3) WeChat will intensify the punishment for the recidivists by suspending their WeChat accounts for 15 days, 30 days and 90 days depending on the situation of counterfeiting and infringement; for serious recidivists, their WeChat accounts will be banned permanently.
    (4) WeChat will impose a severe punishment on fraud. If the counterfeiters engage in the “sales of counterfeit goods and the fraud”, their accounts will be banned permanently.
    (5) Tencent WeChat expects to strengthen communication and cooperation with right holders to jointly establish the network rules. Given that different demands among different industries, WeChat can conduct exchanges with the right holders of the brands in different industries.
    Shi Hanyan, Product Safety Officer of Sanofi Pharmaceutical Group Company, made a keynote speech on the following contents:
    (1) Problem analysis: Infringers use network communication tools (WeChat and QQ) to manufacture and sell counterfeit drugs. In the manufacturing process, the infringers establish contact channels through WeChat and other communication tools, connect the downstream and upstream of the infringement chain, and collect and purchase the packaging materials of counterfeit drugs through the network. In the sales process, the infringers establish special groups for drug trading and patient information exchange through WeChat and QQ to carry out the targeted sales of counterfeit drugs, which has serious harmfulness to the society. The characteristics of real-time network communication tools such as virtuality and privacy result in great difficulties in investigating and penalizing the aforementioned people who manufacture and sell counterfeit drugs.
    (2) Solutions: Right holders expect to strengthen cooperation with Tencent WeChat to jointly solve such difficulties. The “prevention plus solution” measures, as advice, shall be taken by WeChat: in the prevention phase, for the special drug groups (especially the prescription drug groups), proactive regulation and supervision should be strengthened by taking some measures like blocking key words; in the solution phase, WeChat is expected to assist the public security organs and other law enforcement agencies, and provide information on infringers involved, including the phone number, IP address location and trading volume, etc.
    Miller Wang, Brand Protection Manager for MCM APAC, submitted the Main Problems of the Sales of Counterfeit Goods by the Microboss on WeChat Moments as a special topic during the exchange meeting between QBPC and the Office of the National Leading Group on the Fight against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting in June. His speech caused the attention of the member representatives from the Office of the National Leading Group on the Fight against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting and resonated with QBPC members. In the exchange meeting with Tencent, Miller Wang made a keynote speech on the Difficulties and Challenges of the Sales of Counterfeit Goods by the Microboss on WeChat Moments, analyzed the difficulties of WeChat’s IPR protection, and put forward targeted suggestions, which are listed as follows.
    (1) WeChat boasts 963 million monthly active users at home and abroad. The large number of the users and the multifunctionality cause the counterfeiters and infringers are accustomed to using WeChat as one of the main tools to sell counterfeit goods.
    (2) In view of the increasing intensity of punishment for counterfeiting by e-commerce platforms, and WeChat has such characteristics as privacy, closeness and imperceptibility that enables the counterfeiters to effectively avoid the risk of crackdown, so more and more counterfeiters have transferred from Taobao to WeChat. They usually provide a WeChat account in the product information displayed on Taobao and other e-commerce platforms and drive traffic to WeChat for counterfeit products trading. This new type of infringement is particularly serious in the field of luxury goods.
    (3) Due to the difficulty in locking the sales volume on WeChat, the public security organs are difficult to determine whether the target who sells counterfeit goods on WeChat is worth investigating and the case can be filed. Even if the case can be filed, the sales amount on WeChat platform cannot correspond to the specific goods and brands, so it is difficult to identify the illegal turnover of the target who sells counterfeit goods on WeChat. At the same time, the microboss usually carries less inventories and the shipping address is ambiguous, resulting in more difficulties in investigation and punishment.
    (4) It is expected that the right holders of the brands can strengthen their cooperation with Tencent WeChat, and the WeChat platform can further improve its complaint mechanism, speed up the examination and removal, and make the technical blocking through the key words, take more severe punitive measures for those who sell counterfeit goods repeatedly, and assist the law enforcement agencies to fix evidence and combat counterfeiters and infringers. Tencent has given a warm and positive response to this.
    Fu Wei, Senior Manager of Online Law Enforcement from Richemont International SA, made a keynote speech titled the Several Suggestions on WeChat Brand Protection Platform, and gave the following suggestions on the improvement of WeChat complaint mechanism:
    (1) It is suggested that WeChat BPP platform can accept the password login, because the scan login is inconvenient to operate for the multinational companies.
    (2) It is recommended to clarify the standards for the registration of WeChat accounts, simplify the two-step process of “report - complaint”, adopt a more flexible way to complain and provide more detailed hints when complaining to ensure that the complaint is more accurate and effective.
    (3) It is suggested that Tencent WeChat can provide the clear user punishment rules, for example, under what circumstances the moments will be blocked or the WeChat account will be banned.
    (4) It is suggested that the comments on identification can be used as an option of complaint reasons. The right holders of the brand can return the report to the informant, and ask the informant to provide more information or screenshots which can be attached with comments. When the WeChat user chooses a wrong brand, the right holders of the brand that received the report will transfer it to that of the corresponding correct brand.
    (5) The core of e-commerce is traffic. As a semi-closed and semi-open platform, WeChat individual users can access the limited traffic by themselves, and they need to drive traffic from the external sources. Therefore, the right holders often find WeChat accounts posted by the counterfeiters on Baidu PostBar, Weibo and SMS. The question WeChat faces now is how to cooperate with the right holders to cut off the traffic of known counterfeiters, and the future question is how to cut off the traffic of unknown counterfeiters.
    (6) In the current communication with WeChat team, QBPC members feel that WeChat team is willing to accept the suggestions of right holders and use its own way to implement the suggestions in the products.
    For the questions raised by QBPC members, the legal officer from WeChat responded as follows:
    (1) The scope of accepting complaints: WeChat platform can accept the complaints in the fields of trademark, patent, copyright and trade secret.
    (2) The response speed of complaints: WeChat usually deals with the complaints within 7 days.
    (3) The complaint account of the brand’s right holders: WeChat can accept the brand’s right holders have more than one account to complain, for example, the brand’s right holders have an account and their agent has another account.
    4) The identification reason: WeChat has an open attitude to the identification reason of the right holders, but the reasons for complaints should be convincing to facilitate the review and judgment.
    (5) The identification of recidivist: If a counterfeiter counterfeits the trademark of brand A for the first time, and counterfeits the trademark of brand B for the second time, WeChat considers the counterfeiter as a recidivist.
    (6) The chats on WeChat: For the protection of privacy, WeChat does not save the chat history on the server. Therefore, the chat history is only recorded on the terminals (mobile phone and computer) of both sides.
    (7) The cooperation with law enforcement agencies: When the law enforcement agency has sent a letter, WeChat can cooperate with the law enforcement agency to provide the user information, including the phone number, bank account, and the number and amount of transactions associated with the account. However, WeChat cannot provide the chat history because it is not saved.
    (8) The investigation of criminal cases: Another department of Tencent is responsible for criminal cases. If the public security organs require cooperation, WeChat’s Legal Affairs Department staff can help contact the relevant counterparts.
    (9) The sealed-up property in WeChat Wallet: Tencent Tenpay is responsible for WeChat Wallet. If the court asks for a freeze on the defendant’s property in WeChat Wallet, WeChat’s Legal Affairs Department staff can help contact the counterparts of Tenpay.
    (10) The relationship between WeChat and Weidian: WeChat has no relationship with Weidian which is operated independently by Beijing Koudai Fashion Technology Co., Ltd.
    (11) The increased protection for popular trademarks: WeChat provides “strong protection” for popular trademarks. In general, both the Chinese version of the popular trademark and its corresponding English version can be included in the scope of strong protection.
    The exchange meeting ended in a friendly atmosphere. Steven Wang concluded that the meeting was a good start and QBPC hoped to establish an effective long-term communication mechanism with Tencent WeChat, held the regular meetings and said “no” to counterfeiting and infringement in unison to jointly promote the progress of IPR protection.
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