T.J. Scimone is an old pro at intellectual-property protection.
The CEO of Slice, the ceramic cutting-tools company he founded in 2008, says he vigorously defends his patented products. Those products, which include box-cutters, precision cutters and ceramic scissors, are purchased all over the world and used by about half of the Fortune 1000 companies to help reduce costs and risk of injury. Slice’s ceramic blades are harder than metal, last longer, are safer to use and don’t need sharpening or lubrication.
Slice’s cutting tools are popular on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, which also makes them a target for counterfeiters. Scimone’s relationship with Alibaba dates back about 15 years, and he has extensive knowledge of the group’s IP-protection system.
In an interview with Alizila, Scimone talks about his own experience and offers tips on how to get up to speed with Alibaba’s IP-protection system, which he views as pretty robust and straightforward, though it initially took him a fair bit of time understand how it works.
Alizila: Tell us about your business and products. When did you start working with Alibaba and how?
Scimone: I used Alibaba very early, in the early 2000’s, in sourcing products for one of my businesses.
Alizila: How has your business done on our platforms? How have you grown?
Scimone: It really helped me grow the business mentioned above by finding unique products to sell to our distributors. For my current business, it has helped me source stable vendor partners that have contributed to our continued growth.
Alizila: You documented in 2013 how you successfully used AliProtect (now known as the Intellectual Property Protection Platform) to get fake listings taken down. Can you share your thoughts about the overall process? How easy or hard was it, how long did it take to get someone to pay attention to you and act?
Scimone: AliProtect has gotten much better over the years. Like any online platform, there are users that offer products they shouldn’t, and it was nice to have a department at Alibaba that helped enforce the IP rights of others. There are other sourcing platforms out there that go to a voicemail and really don’t care at all. AliProtect was very responsive. Years ago, I had to continuously police the platform for knockoffs, but now it seems very stable, where you submit your IP once and you don’t have to worry about the copy products showing up again.
Alizila: What actions did Alibaba take on your behalf, based on your claims?
Scimone: Alibaba immediately shut down companies that were offering illegal copies of our products.
Alizila: What IP protection action do you take to protect your brand?
Scimone: Any and all legal means possible with worldwide patents, copyrights, trade dress and trademarks.
Alizila: What do you think the brand’s role should be in IP protection? What is Alibaba’s role?
Scimone: Alibaba should, and does, control their platform by supporting those with IP. As the brand, it’s our responsibility to invest in and manage our IP and have all the necessary documentation ready and up to date to supply to online platforms to help those platforms quickly shut down sellers that are infringing on IP.
Alizila: What advice would you give other brands looking to ensure IP protection on Alibaba’s platforms?
Scimone: Make sure you have your IP well organized. It’s easy if you have a couple of products with a few patents, but when you have dozens of products, and each product has patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc., it can become challenging to keep track of all the paperwork—and that paperwork is the key to getting offending sellers off any platform.
Alizila: What would you do to improve our IP protection/takedown system?
Scimone: Tough question to answer. It has worked for me so far, so nothing to change at this point. As I understand it, Alibaba has opened an office in the U.S. to help with IP, so that’s nice to have an office in the same location to correspond with.
Alizila: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our IP protection system? Your experience working with us on IP protection?
Scimone: At least an 8. There’s always room for improvement, but so far I’ve been happy with Alibaba’s efforts in controlling rogue sellers.