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Here’s How Amazon’s Fight Against Counterfeits Is Going

Amazon Brand Protection Report says fewer bad actors try to open accounts, while it nabs more fake goods than ever, thanks to AI, brands like Prada and law enforcement partnerships.

Here’s How Amazon’s Fight Against Counterfeits Is Going

Counterfeits seized by customs in Europe.

Amazon suggests that its fight against fakes has been so successful, fewer bad actors are even trying anymore. According to its Brand Protection Report for 2023, released early Tuesday morning, the company’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit blocked more than 700,000 suspicious attempts to create seller accounts, before “they were able to list a single product.” In 2020, that figure was 6 million.

While fewer sketchy accounts may be opening up, the platform still contends with sketchy products — a lot of them — with a catch rate that has multiplied since the formation of the CCU in 2020.

That year, the team pinpointed and rid more than 2 million counterfeit products. Last year, the figure was 7 million, driven in part by its Brand Registry Program, a critical piece of the effort, since it helps brands find and report third-party goods that infringe on their trademarks, copyrights or patents. Amazon singled out partnerships with major brands including The Prada Group, Cisco and Canon.

Although the company doesn’t disclose the number of brands in the program, it highlighted that the number of valid infringement cases fell more than 30 percent, despite the growth of Amazon’s marketplace over the years.

The critical factor is a blend of technology, human relationships and expertise, with the CCU team composed of former law enforcement officers, investigators, federal prosecutors and other attorneys. According to Kebharu Smith, global director of the CCU, partnerships with law enforcement authorities, both in the U.S. and abroad, have been invaluable. This cooperation even saw one team member involved in a raid action with the City of London police.

Another partnership proved particularly fruitful recently, he told WWD.

“Last year, we partnered with law enforcement in China — the Public Security Bureau, also known as the PSB,” he said. “We partnered with them with on over 50 law enforcement actions, where counterfeiters and bad actors were either detained or investigated related to counterfeiting, and the manufacturing of counterfeiting in China.” The coordinated efforts resulted in the apprehension of more than 100 suspects.

This may not sound like a lot, but individuals can be responsible for a hefty volume of criminality. For example, in November, New York authorities announced that two suspects were on the hook for a massive counterfeit operation, after they seized roughly 219,000 counterfeit bags, clothes, shoes and other luxury products worth some $1.03 billion.

For Smith, the team isn’t just focused on the marketplace, but stopping counterfeiters at the source. That’s a sprawling initiative, and it can take more than manual legwork. At Amazon, it takes advanced artificial intelligence. This scenario pits the machines against crooked sellers, with a system that can automatically evaluate tens of millions of product images per week.

“In 2023, our team used a variety of advanced machine learning models, including large language models, to systematically detect many different types of infringement, including complex visual intellectual property,” the report said. On the e-commerce platform, that allows Amazon to sniff out knock-off artists and fraudsters, thwarting them before they can even start selling.

The company said that it wants to “drive counterfeits to zero,” and it has invested billions into the endeavor. Last year alone, it soaked more than $1.2 billion into the effort and employed more than 15,000 people, from AI and ML scientists to criminal investigators.