Amazon now wants to take stronger measures against counterfeiting. With the so-called Project Zero, the online retailer combines more proactive options for trademark owners to remove counterfeits with individualized serial numbers for genuine products and automated protections. However, the new measures have already encountered heavy criticism.
According to Amazon, the new protection scheme „empowers brands to help drive counterfeits to zero.” For this, the e-commerce giant now allows some brands to autonomously remove suspicious items from Amazon’s platforms using a new self-service tool. For the time being, however, the service is only available for a select number of companies.
In addition, Project Zero will make it possible for right holders to equip their products with an Amazon serial number, making genuine products traceable and helping to identify fakes. This product serialization is supplemented by automated scans: Using product-specific data such as genuine trademarks and logos provided by brands, Amazon identifies potential counterfeits and proactively removes suspect items from its online marketplaces.
The new serial number in particular has come under fire from critics. The Amazon-owned identification number makes goods traceable from the manufacturing site all the way to the end consumer – potentially giving the US e-commerce platform far-reaching insights into the production and sales of original manufacturers. “Amazon thus exactly knows when the manufacturer produces which goods and in what quantities,” the expert for online trade Prof. Jochen Gönsch explains in an interview with the German newspaper Welt. This can be especially relevant as Amazon is no longer just a retailer; the company is already producing its own goods, too.
In theory, Amazon’s serial number would put the company in a good position to gain strategic advantages for its own production over other manufacturers. „For me, it’s a clear sign of market power that a mail order company can even establish such a system,“ says Gönsch. What’s more, rights holders will also have to pay for this protection against counterfeits – according to media reports, Amazon serial numbers will cost between 0.01 and 0.05 US dollars each. Because of this, some media representatives have accused Project Zero of passing on Amazon’s responsibility for fighting counterfeits to rights holders at a profit.
Amazon had already announced to strengthen its anti-counterfeiting measures in 2017. The e-commerce giant had repeatedly been accused of having little interest in fighting fakes – Birkenstock for example had publicly denounced Amazon as being complicit. With the new anti-counterfeiting program, Amazon now wants to regain trust. According to Amazon, Project Zero allows for stronger collaboration with brands “to leverage our combined strengths to move quickly and at scale to drive counterfeits to zero.”