The threat of counterfeit goods on Amazon has been gaining more attention in recent years. Counterfeiters have been selling illegally imitated products while applying sophisticated tactics, including fake reviews and discounted prices.
In a 2020 Congressional antitrust hearing, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos faced legislators and answered questions about counterfeits on the Amazon platform.
Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, asked Bezos why Amazon does not do more to fight counterfeits. He added, “Amazon has said it’s fixing its counterfeit problem, but counterfeiting seems to be getting worse, not better.” He also said that “Amazon acts like it’s not responsible for counterfeits being sold by third-party sellers on its platform“. He added, “we’ve heard that Amazon puts the burden and cost on brand owners to police Amazon’s site, even though Amazon makes money when a counterfeit good is sold on its site.”
Bezos outlined the steps Amazon has taken to eliminate counterfeits. He explained that counterfeits damage consumer trust and added that counterfeits are “bad for customers” and “bad for honest third-party sellers.” He said that Amazon works to prevent counterfeits on its platforms through a team of Amazon employees and various systems.
The burden to identify intellectual property (IP) infringements, launch complaints, send takedown notices, and in some cases, delist counterfeits, still lies mainly on the brands. Amazon has a no-counterfeits policy, but since it operates as an intermediary between buyers and sellers, it is protected under the intermediary shield. However, when made aware of illegal third-party infringements, it must act to end the violation.
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Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry is available for brand owners and provides more control over your products on Amazon, better search tools such as global search, image search, and bulk ASIN search. Brand registry helps brands gain brand protection through reporting potential infringements to Amazon.
For further information see: Why Use Amazon Brand Registry.
Brand Gating allows brand owners and private label sellers to prevent unauthorized sellers from listing brands that have been gated. By doing that, they have the power to prevent illegitimate third-party sellers from selling on their listing.
Unfortunately, it is currently invite-only and not available to every brand.
Transparency by Amazon
The Transparency program started with Amazon’s products and was later made available to brands in specific territories.
Transparency is a service that allows brands to apply a unique barcode to Transparency products to verify they are genuine through checks at U.S. fulfillment centers.
Project Zero, Amazon’s anti-counterfeit program, is designed to help brands fight fake items to achieve zero counterfeits on the Amazon marketplace. It is a self-service counterfeit removal program, allowing the brands on the program to remove infringing listings.
Currently, Project Zero is available on an invite-only basis.
Amazon says that over 10,000 brands, large and small alike, have enrolled in the program. Some of the brands cited are BMW, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Veet. As the project expands, the brands in the program that also have a trademark in any of the countries available for the project will automatically be able to use Project Zero in those countries.
What is Project Zero all about?
The program has three main components:
- Product serialization – Brands get a unique code for every unit they manufacture. They use the codes on their products or packaging during manufacturing. When a product with a serialization code is ordered on Amazon, Amazon can scan and confirm the authenticity of each item. There is a cost per unit associated with the serialization service.
- Self-service tools – Brands invited to Project Zero can access technologies that allow brands to remove listings from the Amazon marketplace. The self-service saves time and gives brands direct control over counterfeit removal.
- Automated technology. Brands provide Amazon with information such as logos and trademarks, and other brand-related data. Amazon’s technology applies the product data provided by your brand and uses machine learning to search for suspicious products and remove them.
Amazon says that applying the three components can prove to be a big help for brands in their fight to eliminate counterfeits from the giant marketplace.
What should I know about Project Zero?
Project Zero focuses on counterfeits. At this point, it is not designed to address all online brand protection issues, such as unauthorized resellers, copyright violations, etc.
Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit
Amazon has formed an internal Counterfeit Crimes Unit, which the company announced earlier in 2020. This Amazon team brings together attorneys, investigators, and data analysts that will promote anti-counterfeiting efforts. The company’s announcement says, “it’s critical that Amazon, brands, and law enforcement also go on the offensive and hold counterfeiters accountable for their crimes.”
The new Crimes Unit will hold counterfeiters accountable through financial penalties, as well as through courts of law. The Unit is another resource to help brands protect their intellectual property.
Wiser Market: Online Brand Protection Agency
Amazon’s tools and programs are geared towards brand owners proactively safeguarding their intellectual property rights. This daunting task is extremely time and energy consuming, resulting in high-costs and less than ideal results.
Wiser Market provides proactive brand protection solution to protect your brand on Amazon. Our innovative monitoring system scans marketplaces, social media and other digital channels to identify counterfeits and IP infringements such as trademark abuse, design patents and patent infringements.
Combining our unique technology with unique eCommerce know-how and nearly 20 years’ experience, we protect brands on Amazon with a fully-managed automatic solution, identifying and removing counterfeits from Amazon with unrivaled results.
With Wiser Market your brand will have a 360° intellectual property protection solution, from detection to enforcement of your IP rights.
Our effective online brand protection service protects your revenue and brand reputation, leaving you to grow your business.
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What is Amazon IP Accelerator?
To use Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting programs, brands need an active registered trademark or the relevant intellectual property right. Amazon IP Accelerator is a tool that helps small and medium businesses to obtain intellectual property (IP) rights and get better brand protection with Amazon vetted law firms and pre-negotiated rates.
What are the benefits of Brand Registry?
- More control over product listings such as incorrect information, incorrect variations, report items that are “not as described”
- Submit IP infringements complaints
- Enable logo and text protection
- Enhance the product description of their branded ASINs
Where is Project Zero available?
As of August 2020, Project Zero is available to sellers in 17 countries around the world:
U.S., UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, India, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
When was Project Zero launched?
Amazon launched Project Zero in 2019.
What are the differences between Transparency and Project Zero?
Transparency and Project Zero are similar programs in their goals to eliminate counterfeits on Amazon through product authentication. Unlike Transparency, Project Zero checks authenticity on an ongoing basis. Brands on Project Zero have self-service tools to identify and remove counterfeits. Also, product serialization is optional on Project Zero although Transparency requires brands to apply codes to products.