On April 2, 2018, Chinese conglomerate Alibaba (market cap $446 billion) filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Manhattan against Alibabacoin (ABBC) Foundation, a recently-created, Dubai-based company in the midst of an initial coin offering (ICO). Through its sale of "Alibabacoins," the ABBC Foundation has ostensibly raised over $3.5 million.
In Monday's complaint, Alibaba asserted that the ABBC Foundation has utilized "prominent, repeated, and intentionally misleading" representations of Alibaba trademarks to promote and sell digital assets. A search of the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System shows that Alibaba holds numerous trademarks in the United States.
Alibaba and Alibabacoin Foundation are not affiliated in any way, but according to Alibaba, the ABBC Foundation has used the retail and technology giant's trademarks "without alteration, in countless instances" and has "done nothing to combat or correct this confusion."
The complaint expanded:
"Rather than build independent value in their brand and the products and services they offer, Defendants have engaged in a willful and concerted campaign to cause the public to believe falsely that Alibaba is the source of the Defendants' products and services, or that such products and services are endorsed or sponsored by, or otherwise associated or affiliated with, Alibaba."
According to Reuters, Judge Kimba Wood issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Alibabacoin Foundation, and ordered the defendants (including ABBC Foundation's CEO Jason Daniel Paul Phillip and CTO Hassan Abbas) to explain to the court "why an order should not be issued granting a preliminary injunction," which would prohibit the defendants' usage of the Alibaba trademarks anywhere in the United States. The lawsuit additionally seeks punitive and treble damages for ABBC's possible violations of US and New York law.
The show cause hearing is set for 11:00 a.m. on April 11, 2018.
The ABBC Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite Judge Wood's orders, the ABBC Foundation has not shown signs that it is curbing its activity. On Facebook, a page for the Alibabacoin Foundation posted yesterday, April 3, encouraging readers to visit their official website. The company bills ABBC as "a technology optimized for distribution, finance, shopping, [and] security, using blockchain technology."
As of publication, there has been little evidence that Alibaba itself is interested in developing its own cryptocurrency. In November 2017, CEO Jack Ma said he is "not that big a fan of bitcoin," but he demonstrated intrigue about blockchain technology, which he described as "very powerful."
Last year, when Alibaba explored new ways of addressing food counterfeiting in China, blockchain technology factored into the supply chain solution. It's not immediately clear whether the company has provided any updates on that project.