In December 2017, a ranking of e-commerce apps was published in China where Taobao came in at #1 and Pinduoduo, which was founded in 2015, was #2. Today, Pinduoduo is the leading Chinese social and fastest growing e-commerce app in the history of Chinese internet. But what does its future look like on a global scale? What are the risks of counterfeiting on this platform, and how can it be avoided?
What is Pinduoduo?
Pinduoduo is an e-commerce platform that can best be described as a mix between Facebook and Groupon. The ambitious startup company was founded in 2015 by ex-Google engineer Colin Huang, who believes that Pinduoduo will revolutionise e-commerce. Just two years after its founding, the company was already worth around $1.5 billion. So what’s it all about?
Just like other social commerce websites like Amazon and Alibaba, Pinduoduo offers a wide range of products that users can browse through online. But there’s a twist – users experience the fun of shopping together. However, instead of going to a shopping mall, they do it online. Pinduoduo encourages people to make purchases together by offering lucrative discounts for shoppers who do so within a group.
The Pinduoduo website is almost like a game, with hidden bargains and colourful pictures. Throughout the shopping experience, users chat with each other through WeChat to discuss potential buys. Although the prices are incredibly low, many users have complained about the quality of their purchases. Yet, despite this, Pinduoduo continues to grow in popularity and is currently one of the most downloaded free apps on Apple’s China App Store.
The Pinduoduo revolution
Pinduoduo’s immense popularity in China begs the question: will it eventually catch on globally? Colin Huang aims to expand Pinduoduo on a global scale. However, it is unclear when he will be moving in this direction.
Moreover, the difference between the Chinese market/consumers and those in other countries will determine whether or not Pinduoduo gains similar success on a global scale. Factors like a lack of distribution channels, high mobile commerce penetration, frictionless mobile payments, attachment to a popular social platform, and access to cheap products all play a significant role in the success of Pinduoduo in China.
However, it is safe to say that Huang’s model offers an innovative take on the e-commerce experience. It certainly has the potential to merge the experience of online shopping with social platforms in a way that could convince consumers globally.
Pinduoduo and online counterfeit
The rapid development of this app also comes with a large risk of counterfeits. In fact, Pinduoduo is more at risk than other websites and apps. Since Pinduoduo indicates a new trend, namely social e-commerce that relies more on its users’ social networks, brand owners are much more at risk.
Infringing products, counterfeits, or knock-offs will reach a larger amount of people much faster on this platform than on traditional e-commerce platforms. Moreover, most of the offers on Pinduoduo can only be accessed and viewed from its app, which makes the detection of infringements much more difficult. Therefore Pinduoduo makes it easy for infringements to reach consumers, and at the same time it is hard to detect them.
Anti-counterfeit solutions for Pinduoduo
So how does enforcing listings work on Pinduoduo? Unlike Alibaba, Pinduoduo does not provide any online reporting portal such as Alibaba’s IPP (Intellectual Property Protection) system.
The only way to report infringements found on the Pinduoduo app is by sending an email to email@example.com, or by writing a letter to the Pinduoduo head office in Shanghai.
In terms of the reporting procedures, every notice and takedown (hereinafter N&TD) request has to be attached, together with copies of valid IPRs. Pinduoduo also requires a (Chinese) form that must be completed, and in which the rights owner or authorised agents have to provide detailed information like the name of the rights owner or the authorised agent, a contact address, a phone number, and an email address.
According to the guidelines published by Pinduoduo, infringements against any valid copyright, trademark, or patent right (including inventions, designs and utility models) can be reported. After receiving the N&TD requests, Pinduoduo will conduct formality examinations.
Interestingly, Pinduoduo’s guidelines make it clear that not all reported sellers will receive a notification after they have been reported. When it comes to very straightforward cases, like when a seller indicates in the listing title that high quality replicas are offered, the listings are likely to be removed directly without notification of the sellers. If the seller does receive the take-down notifications, he or she should respond by filing counter-notifications within 5 working days.. Therefore, the removal of infringing listings may take up to 3 to 5 working days, or even longer.
Given the fact that a fair amount of detailed and complex information is required to take down infringing listings on the Pinduoduo app, it could be a good idea to turn to brand protection service providers for help. They usually have more success with this process, and could save a lot of valuable time – especially if the Chinese language poses a problem for the client dealing with intellectual property infringement cases. Brand protection service providers will be a smart approach to win the fight.
How Pointer Brand Protection can help brands
In summary, Pinduoduo is a rapidly growing social e-commerce platform that offers users a wonderful social online shopping experience. However, the downside is that the platform makes it easy for counterfeiters to reach a lot of consumers at once, making the detection of infringements very difficult.
Your best option is to turn to brand protection service providers to help you with reporting infringing listings, and getting them removed. Pointer Brand Protection is always ready to help you with any problems you may have regarding intellectual property and brand protection. Contact us for any questions, and to get the best protection for your brand.
By Leo Yan
Leo is a qualified lawyer in China mainland, and was granted with a Master degree of advanced intellectual property law in Maastricht University. As a brand protection analyst specialized in China & APAC regions, Leo is dealing with various types of IP infringements every day taking place on Asian pacific market places and social media platforms. For most of the brand owners, China & APAC regions are the most concerned area in terms of brand protections. Leo has sloid legal background and IP protection knowledge, and is good at tailoring brand protection solutions for different brands.