Japanese firm hits Alibaba with patent lawsuits from US to Korea

TOKYO – A little-known Japanese firm has sued Alibaba Group Holding in three countries for allegedly violating its patents on cross-border e-commerce, seeking court injunctions or damages against the Chinese online pioneer.

Tokyo-based patent rights company BWB filed for an injunction against Alibaba’s overseas transactions at the Seoul Central District Court on Dec 29. BWB, which owns customs-clearance and logistics patents, had filed for injunctions and damages at the Tokyo District Court in April and at the US District Court for the Northern District of California in November.

BWB’s system helps merchants pre-register goods at customs at a pre-determined tax rate and helps customers pay the duties at the time of the purchase, ensuring delivery. In the Japanese lawsuit, BWB asked for an injunction against Alibaba and its logistics unit Cainiao, as well as Tmall operator Taobao China Holding, according to a copy of the lawsuit seen by Bloomberg News.

An Alibaba spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation. The company has previously denied it infringed on BWB’s patents and asked the Tokyo court to dismiss the claims. Kota Morimoto, a spokesperson for BWB, confirmed they filed lawsuits in three countries but declined to comment further.

Alibaba is navigating a weaker-than anticipated economic recovery in China and scrappy rivals such as PDD Holdings, the company behind hit shopping app Temu. Its international division, comprising businesses such as AliExpress and Lazada, has become one of its fastest-growing units. Cross-border fulfillment is also a major growth driver for Cainiao, which grew 25 per cent from a year ago in the quarter just ended.

The trial at the Northern District of California begins on Feb 13. BLOOMBERG

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