As eCommerce continues to flourish in today’s context, so does the market for counterfeits. In 2018, counterfeiting was the largest criminal enterprise globally with an estimated sales of $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion a year, and it’s continually growing.
Amazon had had its share of problems relating to counterfeiters. Many programs have been launched to combat these kinds of sellers, but they keep finding ways to circumvent the rules. In this article, we’ll discuss the problems that need to be addressed on Amazon and the ways an Amazon brand protection program can help you frustrate any attempts to counterfeit your products, and prevent any future issues regarding counterfeits.
Since the beginning, Amazon has been adamant about protecting its customers and sellers against counterfeit products. They’ve launched ambitious programs such as the Amazon Brand Registry to enable sellers to register their brands in one catalog. This program has many benefits, but the most notable advantage is Project Zero. Project Zero is one of the best solutions on how to protect your brand on Amazon.
Project Zero is an artificial intelligence that continuously scans stores and proactively removes any suspected counterfeit listings based on the key data points that brand owners provide Amazon. It can scan over 5 billion listings daily, looking for suspected counterfeit products.
Being in the brand registry also gives you the ability to use a self-service tool that allows you to remove counterfeit listings without contacting Amazon. While you’re using this self-service tool, you’re also helping strengthen the automated protections that protect all brand owners from counterfeiters.
A malicious seller can bypass all these Brand Registry Protections by submitting new content using a Vendor Central account. Though this program has the power to remove fake listings from third-party sellers, it can’t do the same with vendors as they’re only considered as Amazon’s suppliers.
Amazon needs to have tighter control over what its vendors can do with their listings. Plus, it’ll be better for everyone if Amazon creates a comprehensive catalog of every product on the platform, including what their vendors provide.
For now, brands should watch other products closely with companies or individuals that offer Amazon brand protection services. Hey, with billions of products on Amazon to check, you can’t do it alone.
The Amazon Brand Registry gives limited protection to trademarked brands. Some of these companies have spent millions of dollars on building and protecting their brands. Many counterfeit sellers steal market share from the owner of the brand. In the real world, if you try to falsely promote your products as Apple, you’ll get sued so fast you won’t know what hit you. That’s how stringent the rules are.
Many unscrupulous sellers can use brands that aren’t theirs in their listings with impunity until somebody notices and reports them. Sometimes, thousands of these fake products get sold before Amazon can do something about it. You can’t blame them. They have billions of products in their market, and it’s hard to monitor all of them.
The only thing you can do as a seller is to closely monitor your product listings for anyone attempting to sell counterfeits of your products. You can do this by getting experts to determine if somebody’s hijacking your listing.
A patent is a kind of intellectual property that provides its owner the right to exclude others from using, making, or selling an invention for a limited period. In other words, nobody can try to sell your patented product on Amazon without your approval. As Amazon’s seller base grows, the same is true of sellers who try to sell cheap knockoffs of proprietary products.
It’s lucrative to sell cheap versions of patented products until the owner of the rights finds out about it and reports it to Amazon. Once that happens, Amazon will suspend the account and suppress the product listing until an investigation has been made. Many of these unscrupulous sellers just open another account and continue selling anyway.
Though Amazon has launched its Patent Neutral Evaluation Process, it can still be tedious for patent owners to have the other seller’s listing be removed. This process only works if the offending item is similar in function to your product and doesn’t have your brand mark or doesn’t exactly look like your product.
First, the patent owner submits an Amazon Utility Patent Neutral Evaluation Agreement -- and all the documentation needed to identify his ownership -- to Amazon. Next, Amazon will suspend the offending seller account pending an investigation. Then, both the patent owner and the offending party will be notified of the evaluation process and will be given a limited time to respond.
Once both parties have responded, Amazon will notify a neutral patent evaluator from a list of attorneys well-versed in U.S. Patent disputes. Then, the evaluator will solicit $4,000 from each of the involved parties as a fee for this evaluation. After that, the evaluator will review the patent dispute and make a decision.
If the patent owner doesn’t provide the fee, the patent complaint will be disregarded, the seller’s fee will be returned, and the account reinstated. If the seller doesn’t give the fee, the listing will be removed, and the account will be permanently deactivated. If the evaluation goes through as planned, the winner will be refunded his $4,000 fee, and the loser pays for the whole process.
This process can be complicated for patent owners running a business and participating in this evaluation, which they can consider an Amazon brand protection solution. Expert advice is always beneficial in these situations.
Amazon may have solutions that resolve reports of counterfeiting, but it treats each of these instances as isolated events. These accounts may be suspended or the listings removed, but it’s a difficult job to monitor any other attempts at counterfeiting.
If a large supply of counterfeit products has been manufactured, multiple Amazon sellers usually tap that supply and offer them to customers. Take away one seller, and two more pop up like the nine heads of the hydra Hercules fought. These fake manufacturers are committed to their enterprise because it earns a lot of money. It’s not even unheard of to have multiple manufacturers producing these counterfeit items.
Amazon must put a severe restriction on items that have a larger chance of being counterfeited. It should be the same way it puts these restrictions on gated products. If you’re selling a gated product, Amazon has an added list of requirements you need to submit. It should be the same for products that are counterfeited regularly or have been counterfeited before.
There are many top-selling products and brands that are manufactured only in the US. Not all of them can afford millions of dollars on brand building. Sometimes, the revenue that they get from selling on Amazon is all they have, so sharing the sales with counterfeiters can be a serious blow to their cash flow.
A foreign seller shows up and claims to have a large inventory of your product. Even if you do a test-buy and verify that their product is fake, it could take a long time for Amazon to take action. By then, you would’ve lost thousands of dollars worth of sales due to these nefarious characters.
Amazon should ask brand owners to submit documentation about their products and their manufacturing facilities. If their items are wholly US-made, then these items should be gated, so any foreign seller claiming to have them would be subjected to stricter guidelines, such as inventory checks, providing invoices, showing a valid supply chain, etc. In this way, legitimate sellers will get better Amazon marketplace protection.
Amazon values customer satisfaction, above all else. This is why they encourage customers to give their two cents on the product they bought. They even have programs like Vine Voices that give unbiased opinions about items on the platform.
Seeing how important Amazon considers customer reviews, it’s surprising how lax they are in fighting fake reviews. Many sellers get fake reviews from people that haven’t even bought their product. Sure, there are signs to look for to make sure these reviews are genuine, like the “Verified Purchase” label, but most prospective buyers looking at the reviews aren’t all trained to look for those labels.
In other words, it’s so easy to destroy your competitors, especially when the negative review contains those “trigger” words that can automatically get an account suspended. When this happens, all you can do is report the fake review and hope Amazon takes action immediately.
People who haven’t bought a product shouldn’t be able to leave reviews. The same goes for people who actually bought a product for the purpose of putting negative feedback on their competitor’s listing. The first issue would be easy if Amazon enforced it. The second might be a little tougher.
If you are under an Amazon brand protection program, get them to investigate these fake reviews and see if they can tie them to one of your competitors. Selling has turned into a cutthroat business that you actually have to send someone to investigate your competitor. You may not like it, but that’s how the ball rolls nowadays.
No eCommerce platform is perfect, including Amazon. As everyone is coming up with new methods to fight these counterfeiters, these types of sellers are also devising ways to circumvent those methods. What’s vital is for every brand owner to spend every minute of every day monitoring their Amazon business. If that proves to be impossible, get yourself under an Amazon brand protection program and intensify your efforts to shield your business from counterfeiters.
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