Despite numerous efforts to educate, prevent and prosecute, counterfeit trade remains a huge problem. According to data collected by the European Union Intellectual Property Office in 2022, as many as 37% of young Europeans purposefully and consciously bought counterfeit goods. It is a large percentage. Therefore, it is important to keep reminding the public of the effects of counterfeit trade – it is not simply financial loss for the original manufacturers and illegal gain for criminal groups. Counterfeit goods pose a risk to the user because of the low quality of materials and their unknown composition.
Amazon Brand Registry
As one of the largest e-commerce platforms, Amazon has launched many interesting projects whose aim is to protect intellectual property, both of their selling partners and their customers. One such project is a free register of sellers who own intellectual property called Brand Registry. It already includes over 700 thousand brands. With the progressing automation, it makes it possible to quickly find and report violations. Machine learning allows Amazon to prevent counterfeits being introduced to the market, as well as block bad actors’ attempts to create accounts. Thanks to Brand Registry, in 2022, the average number of valid reports filed by the brands enrolled in the registry fell by 25% compared to the previous year! Additionally, 2.5 million attempts by bad actors to create accounts have been prevented. In 2021, there were over 6 million such attempts, so the introduced safeguards produce visible effects.
‘Every day, in our shops around the world, over 5 billion product offers are updated, ranging from superficial changes in already existing offers to adding completely new products. We use some of the most advanced technologies, including machine learning methods, so that we can detect potential fraud and abuse, even before any offer has been published on our platform. We analyse thousands of behavioural signals, notifications about copyright infringement and client complaints, which allows us to observe abuse trends’, explains Cezary Sowiński from Amazon.com
‘The development of the Amazon e-commerce platform has positive influence on spreading knowledge of what is protected by intellectual property rights. Means of protection offered by Amazon, such as Brand Registry, not only make it possible for the sellers to more effectively exercise their rights, but also make them aware of the fact that such protection should be properly ensured. At JWP Patent & Trademark Attorneys, we more and more often work with entrepreneurs who need advice on selling products on the Internet, i.e. on registering trademarks and industrial designs and also on the necessary verification if someone’s rights are not being violated’, notices Arletta Miciukiewicz-Dutt, patent and trademark attorney, who works with entrepreneurs every day.
Intellectual property protection in practice
Automated systems based on algorithms and behavioural analyses cannot solve every problem, nor can they asses every report. Assessing the credibility of reports of intellectual property infringement is particularly problematic. That is why Amazon closely investigates all violation reports individually.
As it turns out, some criminals are surprisingly persistent. In 2022, three companies pretended to be the legal owners of intellectual property and together they filed over 4 thousand false copyright infringement claims against Amazon’s selling partners, trying to remove these sellers and their products from the platform. Sometimes, this strategy yielded results, because not only did they file false claims of intellectual property infringement, but they also created temporary web pages with photos of the products copied from Amazon, and they tried to use them as proof that they are the legal copyright holders. This practice has been put to an end, and in March 2023, Amazon filed lawsuits against all three companies.
Amazon’s special Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) has helped file lawsuits or report suspected infringement against over 1.3 thousand bad actors. Thanks to the CCU, the person responsible for launching products which exposed Cisco to losses running into millions of dollars has been brought to court. The defendant is facing 4 to 6.5 years in prison and confiscation of 15 million dollars. Additionally, thanks to reports and actions undertaken by competent law enforcement authorities, raids in several Chinese provinces allowed for the confiscation of over 240 thousand counterfeit goods and dismantling three large networks of counterfeiters.
Education is key
However, the fight with manufacturing and selling counterfeit goods is one thing. The other is education and combating the demand for such goods. Both Amazon and JWP Patent & Trademark Attorneys organise and participate in many events aimed at entrepreneurs and scientists, the goal of which is to spread awareness that their inventions, brands and projects require protection. In this way, we give them the tools to protect the results of their hard work. Last year, these included conferences titled “Intellelctual Property in the Age of Change” (“Własność intelektualna w dobie zmian”), “The Role of Intellectual Property in Building an Innovative Economy” (“Rola własności intelektualnej w budowaniu innowacyjnej gospodarki”) as well as “Uncertain Market, Certain Protection, or How to Plan Product Protection Not to Lose” (“Niepewny rynek, pewna ochrona, czyli jak zaplanować ochronę produktu by nie stracić”). Amazon, together with Consumers Forum, has also reached a wide audience with their dedicated campaign “Live Originally”. It is special in that it focuses on the positive aspects of being surrounded by authentic products. And it has reached over 8 million people in Poland!
Hopefully, the diversified approach focused both on educating consumers and on protecting sellers will pay off, and the next survey by the European Union Intellectual Property Office will note a decrease in the number of people consciously buying counterfeits.