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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Dubai cryptocurrency firm rejects Alibaba trademark allegations 

Chinese online retailer sued Alibabacoin Foundation for trademark infringement last week

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has sued a Dubai-based cryptocurrency firm called Alibabacoin Foundation over alleged trademark infringement, but the company denies the allegations. Alibaba Mark Lennihan / AP Photo
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has sued a Dubai-based cryptocurrency firm called Alibabacoin Foundation over alleged trademark infringement, but the company denies the allegations. Alibaba Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

A Dubai-based cryptocurrency firm called Alibabacoin Foundation has rejected allegations of trademark infringement brought against it last week by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

“Our client [Alibabacoin Foundation] has not indicated any intention to create an e-commerce site which infringes the Alibaba Group’s e-commerce site, or to trade off the Alibaba Group’s intellectual property by setting up an e-commerce site,” the company told The National in an emailed statement from its lawyers on Sunday. It didn't name the lawyers in the statement.

Cryptocurrencies are on the rise in the UAE as investors seek to cash in on the potentially lucrative trading value of Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

However, there have been warnings from the UAE Central Bank and other GCC regulators that cryptocurrency trading and investment remains an unregulated industry.

In a US lawsuit filed last week, Alibaba said Alibabacoin Foundation’s “prominent, repeated, and intentionally misleading” use of its trademarks is designed to make consumers think its products are affiliated with or endorsed by the Chinese online retailer, and that the company has done little to correct such confusion.

The lawsuit seeks a halt to alleged further infringements, plus damages for alleged violations of federal and New York laws.

A judge at the US District Court in Manhattan has imposed a temporary restraining order on Alibabacoin Foundation, and ordered the company to explain on April 11 why it should not be subject to further infringement claims.

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Alibabacoin Foundation, which is also known as ABBC Foundation, has raised more than $3.5 million in cryptocurrency known as “Alibabacoins”. The statement said the company had no intention of infringing on Alibaba’s intellectual property, and has done “nothing except pursue its legitimate business interests”.

A “proper” reading of the company’s website makes it clear that the Alibaba Foundation coin has nothing to do with the Alibaba's e-commerce website, the statement adds, while “a quick internet search reveals a dozen businesses operating in Dubai using the name Alibaba...a well-known name in folklore”.

Ali Baba is the name of the protagonist in the Middle Eastern folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

The Chinese retailer’s demand that Alibabacoin Foundation shut down all of its operations and start again with another name, “is neither a reasonable or proportionate response to our client’s entirely legitimate use of an inherently generic word which emanates not from China, but indeed from the very region in respect of which your client would seek to prohibit its use.

“That, with respect, is an inherently unattractive proposition,” the statement said.

Alibaba Group Holding, one of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies, has not responded to requests from The National for further information on the case.