A Chinese Startup Argued Alibaba’s Taobao Plagiarized

On September 29, a netizen called Wu Liang released an article titled In Today’s Version of Alibaba Baba and Forty Thieves, Alibaba itself is Forty Thieves on Zhihu, claiming “Alibaba unexpectedly took our technical proposal in the name of the cooperation and completely copied our app.”

According to ‘Wu Liang’, the “smart skin quality measurement”(智能测肤) module in Taobao app is “basically the same” as the “You Are Really Good-Looking Today”(你今天真好看) APP. It is known that “You Are Really Good-Looking Today” is an app developed by Hangzhou C2H4 Internet Technology Co.(杭州以息互联网科技有限公司), which could “measure skin quality simply by taking photos”. Wu is the legal representative of Hangzhou C2H4 Internet Technology Co., Ltd.

Wu told Tencent Technology last night that there were other evidences of plagiarism in his hands, but due to lawyer’s advice, he would not release them. Meanwhile, Wu said that legal proceedings had been launched.

Wu said: “Personally, I respected Alibaba a great deal and that’s why I trusted them easily. But I didn’t expect to end up like this.” As for future development of You Are Really Good-Looking Today app, Wu said, “we wish a fair result. And our project will develop at original pace.”

According to Wu, You Are Really Good-Looking Today APP went online in August 2016. In September 2017, the “smart skin quality measurement” module was available in Taobao app.

On August 29, wshang.com introduced Tmall’s smart skin quality measurement technology in an article titled Take a Photo to Measure Skin Quality, another Black Tech after Self-Service Lipstick Vending Machine. The article says “the time as long as taking a photo could test skin condition”. It further says after users logging in smart skin measurement page in Taobao or Tmall, they could get a real time anylisis of user’s skin age, sensitivity, oily or dry skin and other aspects. Based on test results, Tmall also provides one-stop skin care solutions.

Wu said that on May 17, 2017, Alibaba health team contacted You Are Really Good-Looking Today APP team and expressed their willing to cooperate on the same day. In the second week after that, the two sides agreed to cooperate with each other. The function of “photo to measure skin quality” would be provided by You Are Really Good-Looking Today APP team and will be embedded in mobile Taobao App, which is planned to be launched in late June. Since then, according to Wu, Alibaba’s attitude changed from “in a hurry” to “stall for time”. “Until July 28, Alibaba made it clear that they would continue the project and thus, we didn’t think too much,” said Wu Liang.

Tmall responded on September 28, “as for In Today’s Version of Alibaba Baba and Forty Thieves, Alibaba itself is Forty Thieves released on Zhihu by You Are Really Good-Looking Today APP staff, we are conducting investigation and verification and welcome public following up and supervising investigation progress”.

In addition, Tmall claimed it took several actions to speed up the investigation process:

  1. We decided to suspend the “smart skin quality measurement” function in Tmall Cosmetics from today until settling the issue.
  2. We sincerely invite You Are Really Good-Looking Today team to comprehensively review two products together from the design to core code, and see if there really exists plagiarism.
  3. It is affirmed that the launch time of Tmall “smart skin quality measurement” was in March this year, while Alibaba Health contacted with You Are Really Good-Looking Today team in May.
  4. We know how difficult innovation and entrepreneurship are and understand how You Are Really Good-Looking Today team feels now. Please wait for the results of the review.

Wu Liang further replied:

  1. I am very glad to see that Tmall has decided to suspend the “smart skin quality measurement” function. But by the time they release announcement, this function is still available in some stores. We hope Tmall team could strengthen the implementation.
  2. Considering the design and the core code of the product involve both trade secrets, we think whether plagiarism exists or not shall be affirmed by the neutral third party appraisal institution or the court instead of two teams.
  3. Supplement other time points: You Are Really Good-Looking Today APP was launched in August 2016; Alibaba health team contacted us for cooperation in May 2017; Mobile Taobao had access to our project in June 2017; “smart skin quality measurement” function was on Taobao in in September 2017.

I look forward to the conclusion of the internal investigation, and I hope that Alibaba can finally give fair reply to our team and the public. We are willing to communicate with Alibaba on the premise of sincerity and equality.


This article originally appeared in Tencent technology and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.