Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit is Making a Big Impact
Article by: Orca Pacific
Many consumers have, at one time or another, accidentally purchased a not-so-authentic product online. These counterfeit items create negative outcomes for both brands and consumers. So earlier this year, Amazon assembled a new global team called the Counterfeit Crimes Unit dedicated to investigating, finding, and launching legal action and criminal referrals against counterfeiters.
The multi-disciplinary team is composed of former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts.
According to Amazon press release, “The Counterfeit Crimes Unit enables Amazon to more effectively pursue civil litigation against bad actors, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters.”
Since launching, the team has already made a big impact through joint litigation.
In June, Amazon partnered with Italian luxury brand Valentino to stop a New York-based counterfeiter who was selling fake Valentino shoes on Amazon.
Amazon shut down the seller’s account. Still, despite multiple notices of infringement and a cease and desist order, the seller continued to import, distribute, sell, and offer infringing products through a direct to consumer site.
Now the fraudulent seller now faces joint litigation which will ultimately protect Valentino’s customers and allow the brand an opportunity to recoup lost proceeds due to counterfeiting.
“The vast majority of sellers in our store are honest entrepreneurs but we do not hesitate to take aggressive action to protect customers, brands, and our store from counterfeiters,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s VP of Customer Trust and Partner Support. “Amazon and Valentino are holding this company accountable in a court of law and we appreciate Valentino’s collaboration throughout this investigation.”
Over the past few months, Amazon has entered into several other joint lawsuits.
In late October, Amazon announced joint litigation with J.L. Childress, a small family-operated business, against 11 Amazon sellers who were counterfeiting J.L. Childress’ products including travel bags for car seats and strollers. By selling the infringing products on Amazon, the counterfeiters violated Amazon’s policies, J.L. Childress’ intellectual property rights, and the law.
The case shows that Amazon is not only concerned with helping big national brands, but is also looking out for smaller legitimate Amazon sellers.
“Whether a product comes from a large brand, family business, or a new entrepreneur, our priority is preventing counterfeits from entering our store and damaging our customers’ experience and a brand’s reputation,” said Cristina Posa, Associate General Counsel and Director with Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit. “We invest significant resources in proactively protecting our store, and in addition, we take aggressive action to hold bad actors accountable as we’ve done here.”
Most recently, Amazon jointly filed a lawsuit with YETI Coolers against two US-based individuals for counterfeiting YETI’s products, including YETI’s popular Rambler® mug. The defendants attempted to offer the infringing products in Amazon’s store, violating Amazon’s policies, YETI’s intellectual property rights, and the law. Amazon closed its selling accounts and refunded impacted customers.
“YETI works aggressively to protect our consumers, our intellectual property rights, and our brand from the actions of counterfeiters and those who facilitate the importation and sale of counterfeit goods,” said Bryan Barksdale, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary at YETI. “We appreciate Amazon’s commitment to this shared objective.”
But Amazon’s focus isn’t just on resolving counterfeit issues on their platform.
The team is now targeting counterfeit products before they ever reach the virtual shelf.
The team is now leading a new initiative to target counterfeit products right at the port of entry. It’s called “Operational Fulfilled Action,” and it involves Amazon working alongside the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to analyze data and conduct targeted inspections at US ports of entry aimed at preventing counterfeit products from entering the U.S. supply chain.
Any evidence obtained during the operation will help Amazon in on-going investigations and should have a positive ripple effect for brands, retailers, and customers across the industry.
But Amazon’s work to fight counterfeits goes beyond the expanding role of the Counterfeit Crimes Unit.
In 2019, Amazon announced Project Zero, a brand protection program meant to “drive counterfeits to zero.” The program features three innovative tools: self-service counterfeit removal, automated protections, and product serialization.
Amazon offers up its advanced technology and machine learning capabilities while counting on brands to use their intellectual property and industry knowledge to proactively thwart counterfeit attempts.
“Our aim is that customers always receive authentic goods when shopping on Amazon. Project Zero builds on our long-standing work and investments in this area. It allows brands to work with us to leverage our combined strengths to move quickly and at scale to drive counterfeits to zero.” – Amazon Blog.