Will Amazon’s Project Zero help combat online counterfeiting?

Amazon has revolutionized how the world does business, but it is plagued by substantial counterfeiting activity. Will Project Zero help brand owners fight back?

Amazon is the leading online marketplace in the U.S. with its share of the domestic ecommerce market approaching 50%1. Consumers across the globe have embraced easy access to a wide variety of affordable goods and Amazon’s efficient and innovative fulfilment process.

Amazon has revolutionized how the world does business. However, the platform has been a target for substantial counterfeiting activity, with brands such as Birkenstock2 and Mercedes Benz3 criticizing the ecommerce giant for lack of action against infringement. Amazon warned its investors about the risk of counterfeits on its online platform for the first time this year.

Amazon’s recently unveiled ‘Project Zero’ declares an ambition to arm brand owners with tools to remove counterfeits, but will it work?

What Is Project Zero?

Project Zero is a brand protection initiative introduced by Amazon. It supplements Amazon’s existing Brand Registry and Brand Transparency programs and is available by invitation-only to companies that have already enrolled in Brand Registry.

There are three key features:

Automated protections – The initiative refers to “machine learning” used to scan and remove counterfeits by scouring listings for references to brand intellectual property, including trademarks and logos.

Self-Service counterfeit removal – Project Zero provides a self-service tool that allows brands to remove counterfeits without having to involve Amazon as an intermediary.

Product serialization – Serialization, a service offered by Amazon’s existing Brand Transparency program is rolled into Project Zero. “Brands apply a unique code on every unit they manufacture for an enrolled product, allowing Amazon to scan and confirm the authenticity of products purchased in Amazon’s stores. Serialization costs $.01 to $.05 per bar code depending on the volume.

How does Incopro combine technology with Amazon’s tools for maximum enforcement impact?

Incopro works with brands to create effective online brand protection strategies, leveraging our expertise in intellectual property, criminal intelligence and technical design. Our online brand protection tool, Talisman, uses automated data collection and prioritisation to discover counterfeit listings and the network operators who are infringing at scale. Talisman allows efficient enforcement at scale.

Our approach to Amazon enforcement

The new tools launched by Amazon build on existing Amazon enforcement initiatives that Incopro utilise within our brand protection programmes. To achieve maximum impact, Incopro’s Talisman platform examines all infringements on Amazon. The key issues for enforcement are filtered and presented within the system. Amazon’s and Talisman’s enforcement tools are then used to ensure maximum effect.

Incopro makes considerable, ongoing technology investment to ensure that our solutions are adapted to finding all the possible instances of infringement. The features of Incopro’s technology that work in tandem with Amazon/Project Zero to provide significant reduction in infringement on the platform are listed below:

  • Talisman’s risk matrix surfaces high-risk Amazon seller offers and filters out non-infringing items;
  • Talisman segments out ASINs (the Amazon Standard Identification Number) associated with brand owners from unauthorized duplicative and counterfeit ASINs, which require different enforcement approaches;
  • Talisman identifies and links infringement activity which may occur on multiple Amazon country platforms;
  • Talisman filters out legitimate sellers from enforcement queues;
  • Talisman identifies seller infringement patterns that suggest Amazon users are either connected or using aliases to persist in infringement activity;
  • Talisman ensures brands have integrated, systemic enforcement strategies and reporting models that can be standardized across all marketplaces.

Counterfeiters exploiting ASIN

What’s the underlying issue with Amazon? The Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) is the unique offer identifier on Amazon. This identifier creates unique challenges. In theory, each unique product sold on Amazon is given its own unique ASIN. Brands can set up their products for sale with a unique ASIN and use their own copyright images and product descriptions under this. However, ASINs can be exploited by counterfeiters:

  • The ASIN is not unique to the seller; Amazon requires brands to share the ASIN for their product with other sellers of the same product. These sellers are not required to prove that their versions of the product are lawful. Amazon algorithms have been built to help consumers find top selling products. These can help counterfeit products appear front and centre, attracting attention and causing consumer confusion.
  • Sellers can also create a separate ASIN for the same product. So a counterfeit seller can offer products for sale under a separate ASIN even if their products look identical to the real thing.

Cooperation is key

All IP stakeholders have a shared interest in a reduction in counterfeit activity and in a stable, equitable, and well-managed process for resolving intellectual property claims.

Amazon’s Brand Registry program has enhanced the enforcement process. Project Zero offers further capacity. Used in conjunction with Incopro’s Talisman platform, the Amazon initiatives support brands in securing effective enforcement.

If you would like to find out more about how Incopro cooperates with marketplaces such as Amazon and other platforms such as WeChat to build effective brand protection strategies for our clients, please get in touch with one of our brand advisors below.

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References

  1. Amazon’s share of the domestic ecommerce market approaches 50% https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/13/amazons-share-of-the-us-e-commerce-market-is-now-49-or-5-of-all-retail-spend/
  2. Birkenstock criticizes Amazon for counterfeit shoes found on the site
    https://www.businessinsider.com/birkenstock-ceo-accuses-amazon-of-profiting-off-fake-goods-2017-12
  3. Mercedes-Benz attacks Amazon for counterfeit car parts found on the platform https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/12/05/amazon-got-busted-selling-counterfeit-mercedes-benz-parts-now-everything-may-change/#1893bc19220

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