Amazon turns to tech in fight against fakes; offers “self-service” takedown tool for brands

  • Amazon unveils Project Zero project designed to drive counterfeits to zero’
  • Participating brands will have ability to remove infringing listings
  • Currently invite-only, program is being rolled out on US Amazon platform

Amazon has unveiled its Project Zero program, which the company claims “combines Amazon’s advanced technology, machine learning, and innovation with the sophisticated knowledge that brands have of their own intellectual property” in a bid to “drive counterfeits to zero”. The announcement will be welcomed by brands grappling with the availability of fakes online.

Project Zero has three dimensions. The first focuses on automated protections to use machine learning technology to scan its stores and remove suspected counterfeits. The release announcing the program explains: “Brands [participating in the programme] provide us with their logos, trademarks, and other key data about their brand, and we scan over 5 billion product listing updates every day, looking for suspected counterfeits. We’ve been testing these automated protections with a number of brands, and on average, our automated protections proactively stop 100 times more suspected counterfeit products as compared to what we reactively remove based on reports from brands.”

The second tool is a “self-service” aid which allows brands to remove counterfeit listings themselves. Rather than report suspect listings to the company for investigation, brands are able to take their own action – Amazon noting that such removals then also feed into its own automated protections “so we can better catch potential counterfeit listings proactively in the future”. Providing brands with the power to remove listings will likely result in kickback from impacted sellers and, perhaps with this in mind, Amazon states that companies are expected to “maintain a high bar for accuracy in order to maintain their Project Zero privileges”, the e-commerce giant engaging in ongoing monitoring to prevent misuse of the tools.

The final component of Project Zero is a product serialisation service designed to allow Amazon to individually scan and confirm the authenticity of products that are purchased in its stores. The company explains: “The product serialisation service provides a unique code for every unit that is manufactured, and the brand puts these codes on its products as part of its manufacturing process. Every time a product using our serialisation service is ordered in Amazon’s stores, we scan and verify the authenticity of the purchase. With this product serialisation service, we can now detect and stop counterfeiting for every product unit before it reaches a customer.” The serialisation tool – which is not mandatory for Project Zero participants – is the only one which comes with a cost, which ranges from $0.01 to $0.05 per unit, based on volume.

For now the project is being operated on an ‘invite-only’ basis and WTR understands that 15 brands – ranging both in size (from small startups to larger, household names) and industries – participated in the pilot. However, the intention is to accelerate the roll-out and brands are able to join a waiting list at the Project Zero website. In terms of eligibility, participants are required to have a government-registered trademark and have enrolled their brand in Amazon’s Brand Registry.

We have previously reported on concerns over the availability of fake products on Amazon’s platforms, including within Amazon Marketplace's own inventory, as well as the e-commerce company’s efforts to take legal action against alleged counterfeiters and expansion of its Brand Registry offering. On the latter, in October an Amazon spokesperson told us that the company has a global team that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to reported violations and notices of potential infringement, adding that over the previous year “Amazon investigated and took action on 95% of all worldwide notices of potential infringement received from Brand Registry within eight hours, and brands in Brand Registry are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry.”

This latest move is an escalation of those efforts and – while the results remain to be seen – the announcement will be welcomed by rights holders grappling with the availability of fakes. If successful the hope will be that the program, which is currently only available in the US, will be rolled out to Amazon platforms in other countries.

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