Kering ratchets up legal fight with Alibaba

French-headquartered luxury brand owner Kering has unsuccessfully sought to fast track its legal suit against Alibaba after what it considered “greatly troubling” comments by Jack Ma.

Kering, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent among others, filed suit against the Chinese eCommerce giant in May after it considered more passive efforts to get Alibaba to stop selling counterfeit versions of its goods on its websites were not bearing fruit.

Last week Kering has asked a US judge to waive the mandatory obligation of mediation between the two parties, citing a quote by Ma in a magazine article.

Kering’s lawyers say the company was “greatly troubled” by Ma being quoted in Forbes saying there was no chance of settling.

“I would [rather] lose the case, lose the money… But we would gain our dignity and respect,” Ma was quoted saying.

Kering’s lawyers argued if this is indeed Ma’s position, mediation would be futile.

But Judge Kevin Castel disagreed, on Monday urging the parties to continue with mediation.

“Needless public comments can undermine talks. Yet public positions and positions in confidential talks have been known to vary… The Court strongly recommends that the parties proceed to mediation,” he wrote in an order.

Kering maintains Alibaba is a giant conduit for counterfeiters and alleges the company has knowingly made it possible for traders to sell fake good on its sites.

According to a letter to the judge, seen by Reuters, Kering’s counsel said of the interview: “It leaves the impression… that Alibaba‘s request for mediation was not made in good faith, but rather as a tactic to delay this case and to force Plaintiffs to expend resources spinning their wheels in an expensive and time-consuming mediation.”

An Alibaba spokesman Bob Christie said Ma had made the comments prior to Kering agreeing to Alibaba‘s proposal to mediate.

“If they want to return to the path of litigation, instead of mediation, we will vigorously defend our legal rights and reputation,” he said in an email to Reuters.

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