Amazon's Project Zero Gives Control to Brand Owners
Brand owners will be pleased to hear about Amazon's new initiative Project Zero which will assist in removing counterfeit products from Amazon's online marketplace. In the past, if a brand owner discovered a fake version of its product, a form had to be filed with Amazon describing the issue. Amazon would review and evaluate the claim filed, and determine if it would remove the alleged counterfeit product from its site. Project Zero currently is an invite only program in the United States. In other words, Amazon will be choosing the brands it wants to participate in the program.
Project Zero has three components. The first element is within Amazon's control. Amazon has implemented automated protections and technology that will scan the online store, and remove any counterfeits discovered. Amazon reports that it scans over 5 billion daily listings, searching for counterfeit goods.
The second component is a self-service tool. For the first time, since Amazon launched its online marketplace, product owners will be able to remove counterfeit listings on their own. This will give brand owners quite a bit of autonomy to combat fakes. Amazon strongly believes that if it joins forces with brand owners, the program will reduce counterfeits to zero. The first two components of Project Zero will have no cost (the automated protections and utilization of the self service counterfeit tool) for the brand owner.
The third aspect of the project is product serialization. Business owners will apply a distinct and unique code on every product. This will allow Amazon to scan the individual codes and verify the authenticity of all the goods purchased in the online retail store. Serialization is not required to enroll in Project Zero, but it has been reported that the brands with serialization are seeing the best results. Also, brand owners can select which of their products they choose to serialize. Some brands are choosing only to serialize certain products, due to cost. There is a cost of $0.01-$0.05 per unit based on volume.
If you were not invited to join Amazon's Project Zero you can join a waitlist, and Amazon will notify you when it is ready to enroll you in the program. Amazon's goal is to continue to add brands, while still guaranteeing a high quality experience for brand owners. Similar to Amazon's Brand Registry requirements, participants of Project Zero must have a registered trademark at the Trademark Office. In addition, participants must be enrolled in the Brand Registry. See our firm page entitled, Amazon's Brand Registry Requires Federal Registration, for more information on the Brand Registry that launched in May 2017. If you haven't enrolled in the Registry yet, it is not too late, visit www.brandservices.amazon.com to learn more.
If you become a participant in Project Zero, it will come with responsibilities. Amazon requires training as part of the enrollment, and there will be monitoring as well to prevent misuse of the tools. Also, participants of Project Zero should use caution when removing suspect infringing goods. For those brand owners who are unable to participate now, remember to continue to report infringement to Amazon through the forms on its website at https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement. Online infringement continues to grow year after year. In addition to being concerned about counterfeit products, brand owners also need to concern themselves with unauthorized sellers of authentic goods that are making material alterations to the goods. These alterations include, but are not limited to modifications to the packaging, removing warnings from labels, changing warranties, or making physical changes to the goods. See our firm page entitled, Unauthorized E-Commerce Dealers Of Unauthorized Goods, for more information and strategies for managing this problem. There are specialized companies who will work with brand owners and act as an intermediary with Amazon to manage infringement, counterfeits, and unauthorized dealers making material changes to authentic products. If you would like to register your mark with the USPTO, so you can participate in one of Amazon's new programs, please contact the firm for a courtesy consultation.