Amazon recently released its third annual report on brand protection, which provides all the details of its battle against the sale of counterfeit products on its platform. Facing legal action from multiple brands in recent years, the e-commerce giant has confirmed the increase in technology and legal efforts in the fight against counterfeiting.
In particular, according to the report, the first line of defense is constituted by seller verification tools, tools that in 2022 would have blocked about 800,000 attempts to create Amazon stores through which to promote and sell fake products. This figure is down from 2.5 million attempts in 2021 and 6 million in 2020, as last year Amazon intensified controls by requiring sellers to have a video chat to verify their identity in real-time, as well as producing identity, tax, and banking documents.
In the past, brands damaged by the counterfeiting of their own trademarks have adopted the strategy of directly suing Amazon. This was the case, for example, with Chanel, which won a lawsuit against Amazon in 2017 for counterfeit products sold on the platform, and luxury shoe manufacturer Christian Louboutin, in relation to keyword ads using the “Louboutin” trademark to sell fakes. Brands such as Birkenstock and Nike, then, had initially closed their stores on the platform.
Other brands, however, have decided to collaborate. In 2020, for example, Valentino joined Amazon in a lawsuit against some counterfeiters, and in 2022, Cartier and Amazon collaborated to target influencers who promote fake products (e.g., on Instagram).
The report also highlighted how Amazon’s actions against counterfeiters in 2022 amounted to about 1,300 cases across the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and China, actions that involve direct collaboration with local law enforcement to identify fakes even in factories where they are produced. Members of Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit not only investigate and report evidence of counterfeit goods, but also participate in “raids” on production sites. This has resulted in a total of 6 million counterfeit items being disposed of in 2022, according to Amazon.
In its report, Amazon does not directly identify a specific geographical area as the source of the highest number of counterfeits; however, according to a research by North Carolina State University’s Robert Handfield, about 80% of counterfeit products entering the United States come from China.
The report also promotes Amazon’s multiple cooperation programs with brands to fight counterfeiting together. The most important of these is the Brand Registry program, which allows the parties involved to report counterfeit goods found on the platform.
On this point, Amazon also claimed to have improved its internal automated technology to remove fakes before brands have to report them, something that these brands also do through specific service providers (who “scrape” product listings on Amazon and then report unauthorized ones). This improvement, which involves scanning 8 billion product listings per day, has reduced the need for brands to manually monitor fakes, to the point that 99% of violations are handled automatically. In light of this success, the “Brand Registry” program’s functionality was updated in 2022 so that brands can see the number of ads that have been proactively removed by Amazon.
Finally, Amazon has made available the “Project Zero” program, which allows the involved brands to directly remove products, as well as a transparency program that assigns unique serial numbers to products and a badge that confirms that Amazon has verified such products as authentic in collaboration with the brand. According to the report, 900 million units have been affected by this latter program.