Alibaba is troubled again for plagiarism, and this time from a small startup called C2H4, who claimed their entire app and technique solutions were stolen and added to the apps of Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall.
A new feature on Tmall’s app allows customers to scan their faces with the smartphone cameras, get their skin conditions evaluated, and receive recommendations for skin care products. However, the app is entirely built by plagiarizing C2H4’s technology, according to the startup.
Wu Liang, CEO of C2H4 Internet Technology Co. Ltd., wrote on Zhihu, China’s Quora, that Alibaba’s apps have a striking resemblance of the startup’s app “You Look Amazing Today (你今天真好看).”
Wu’s company in August 2016 rolled out the app, which can analyze the users’ skin conditions and provide information on the skin type, smoothness, acne, and blackheads.
“This is not just plagiarism. They took our technology under false pretenses of collaboration,” Wu told TechNode. “The Alibaba’s team stole our entire solution, code, and design.”
Wu explained that Ali Health approached the startup on May 17 to collaborate on rolling out a feature to test skin in Tmall’s and Taobao’s apps. After a few rounds of discussions, C2H4 provided its app’s code and design of their demo versions in the hope of reaching a cooperation agreement with Alibaba. However, the communication decreased afterward, and both parties failed to sign a contract, according to Wu.
Additionally, Wu was told by Ali Health that the skin-testing feature in Alibaba’s apps was developed by Tmall’s cosmetics team, he wrote in the Zhihu post.
In response to this, Tmall published a statement on Zhihu, suggesting that the feature is now taken down from the apps and the e-commerce giant will permanently discard the developed feature. The firm also apologized for the fact that it plagiarized the feature’s user instructions, and announced that the related Alibaba’s staff will be penalized accordingly.
Tmall also said in the statement that the cooperation between Ali Health and “You Look Amazing Today” team is independent of Tmall’s skin-testing feature, and that there was no code stolen. The firm added that it is willing to resort to a third-party organization to review the code together with the startup.
“They only admitted that they stole the ‘user instructions’ part, but in fact, they took the entire product design and technical solutions developed by us,” said Wu.
Wu said that the startup has reached out to their lawyer and will take legal action if needed.
“It’s rather hard to obtain patents for the apps,” said Wu. “But we do have the copyright of the app, and we’re collecting evidence of relevant plagiarism with assistance from our lawyer.”