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26 October 2020
On 24 June 2020 Amazon announced the launch of a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit in an effort to stifle the trade of counterfeit goods on its international marketplace. According to Amazon, the unit is a global team comprising "former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts"(1) that will allow the company "to more effectively pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters"(2) by using Amazon's own internal data, third-party payment service providers and on-the-ground(3) assets to identify bad actors and bring them to justice.
According to Amazon's vice president of customer trust and partner support, Dharmesh Mehta:
Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they're located… We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement—through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets—is one of the most effective ways to stop them.(4)
This move is Amazon's latest attempt to deal with the issue of counterfeit goods being sold on its online marketplace. In late 2017 Amazon launched its Transparency programme, allowing manufacturers and sellers to affix individualised barcodes to their goods, which Amazon then uses to authenticate their origin. However, this method requires manufacturers and sellers to buy into the programme, with prices ranging from $0.01 to $0.05 per barcode. In February 2019 Amazon announced Project Zero, another programme designed to tackle the growing issue of counterfeit trafficking. Project Zero integrates the serialised barcodes of Transparency with AI-assisted, automated scans of product listings and self-service counterfeit removal capabilities that allow brands to remove suspected counterfeit listings without first alerting Amazon.
Despite the implementation of these programmes in recent years, the traffic of counterfeit goods remains a problem for Amazon. It is the company's hope that the new crime unit:
enables Amazon to more effectively pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters.(5)
For further information on this topic please contact Marcella Ballard, Kristen Ruisi or Maria Sinatra at Venable LLP by telephone (+1 410 244 7400) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Venable LLP website can be accessed at www.venable.com.
(1) Further details are available here.
(3) Further details are available here.
(5) Further details are available here.
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