Amazon’s Project Zero Initiative Seeks to Place Brand Owners in Control

March 25, 2019

By Nikola L. Datzov

Counterfeit key on computer keyboardBrand owners recently gained a new weapon for their arsenal in the ongoing fight against counterfeit products sold on online marketplace giant Amazon.com. While Amazon’s goal “to help drive counterfeits to zero” might seem a bit ambitious, many brand owners—such as Thunderworks, Vera Bradley, and Chom Chom Roller—appreciate Amazon’s efforts to help protect consumers from knockoff products. Their reviews of Project Zero laud the initiative as not only demonstrating that “Amazon really cares about helping protect [the] brand[s] and eliminate[ing] counterfeits” but also as “a significant development that will help ensure our customers receive authentic … products from Amazon.”

Project Zero is based on three new Amazon tools:

  1. Automated protections that utilize algorithms to continually scan products and identify counterfeits; 
  2. A self-service tool that provides brand owners the ability to remove counterfeit listings themselves, with no need to report the counterfeit listing to Amazon; and
  3. A product serialization service that relies on a unique code for each unit to ensure the authenticity of the purchase.

Amazon’s automated functionality is designed to scan the online listings and remove potential counterfeits based on information provided by brands, such as logos, trademarks, and other “key data.” Amazon touts that this functionality is 100 times more effective at proactively stopping suspected counterfeit products than its reactive reporting system.

The self-service tool, on the other hand, puts the brand owner in the driver seat. And the tool is a significant shift from Amazon’s prior system that required reporting the suspected counterfeit product and waiting for Amazon’s review of the allegation before the product listing could be taken down. Now, brand owners can directly remove the accused product without the lag time of Amazon review. Though, to continue using the functionality, Amazon requires “a high bar for accuracy” and training as part of enrollment in Project Zero. In other words, Amazon seeks to make the brand owner a partner in the fight against counterfeits, but not surprisingly, demands a level of trust in how postings are removed. The goal is to preclude brand owners from misusing the tool or removing competitive products that are not counterfeits.

The final tool, product serialization, allows brand owners to include a unique code with each unit of each product that will be utilized in Amazon’s warehouses to ensure the product is authentic. While product serialization is not required, Amazon touts its application as allowing for the best results at a low cost—between a penny and a nickel per unit.

For now, Project Zero is not available to everyone. To enroll in the program, a brand must: (1) have a registered trademark; (2) enroll in Amazon’s Brand Registry; and (3) join the waitlist for Project Zero. Moreover, Project Zero is not a wholesale replacement for a comprehensive IP enforcement strategy to help take down—and prevent—false advertising or infringement of a company’s intellectual property rights. For example, the tools do not pertain to companies seeking to enforce patent rights. However, it is another important arrow in the quiver to thwart the significant damage that counterfeit products can wreak to a company and its brand. Though the final verdict on Project Zero’s efficacy is still out, it appears to be at least a step in the right direction.

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