Project Zero: Amazon’s Goal to Eliminate Counterfeits

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By Published On: March 5, 20190 Comments

The global marketplace has announced its latest project – Project Zero. The program, as the name suggests, will reportedly use machine learning and “innovative” tech to “drive counterfeits to zero”.

In a recent blog post, Amazon announced its plan to reduce, and ultimately eliminate counterfeit goods from its platform by using technology that’s designed to improve its detection capabilities.

“Project Zero combines Amazon’s advanced technology, machine learning, and innovation with the sophisticated knowledge that brands have of their own intellectual property and how best to detect counterfeits of their products,” wrote Dharmesh M. Mehta, the vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support at Amazon in the blog post.

According to Mehta, the automated protections will ensure stores are scanned automatically using machine learning to “proactively remove” any product listings that are suspected of being counterfeits. Amazon reportedly has access to logos, trademarks and other key data about brands that are sold through its platform, all of which are used as the company scans approximately five billion product lists each day. Amazon says that its automated protections stop, on average, 100 times more suspected counterfeit products than companies reactively remove, based on reports from brands.

In the past, brands have had to contact Amazon to request the removal of counterfeit goods from the platform. Now, the global marketplace says it has self-service tools available so that they can remove counterfeit listings from stores themselves. This information will then be fed back into Amazon’s automated protections to help improve detection processes in the future.

Another element of Project Zero is Amazon’s ‘Product Serialisation’ capabilities. This service reportedly allows Amazon to individually scan and confirm the authenticity of every one of a brand’s products that can be purchased through Amazon.

“The product serialization service provides a unique code for every unit that is manufactured, and the brand puts these codes on its products as part of its manufacturing process. Every time a product using our serialization service is ordered in Amazon’s stores, we scan and verify the authenticity of the purchase,” Mehta wrote.

Amazon says that the brands that have already started using Project Zero are pleased with the results, with early adopters claiming their counterfeit issues have been minimised or wiped out entirely.

Amazon seller, Phil Blizzard, the CEO and founder of Thunderworks says its counterfeit problem has almost been wiped out on the US platform.

“When we were offered the opportunity to enrol in Amazon Project Zero, we jumped on it. Every unit we sell through Amazon has a unique, serialized barcode, and our counterfeit problem has nearly disappeared in the United States,” he said.

A Worldwide Struggle

The implementation of Project Zero comes after Amazon, Alibaba, eBay and Rakuten-France all signed a Product Safety Pledge in mid-2018, promising to address misleading product listings faster.

At the time, the European Commission confirmed that all four businesses had signed the pledge, affirming their commitment to respond to notifications of dangerous goods from Member State authorities within two working days, and taking action on any complaints from customers within five working days.

Counterfeit goods continue to be a big issue for online marketplaces, with the Founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, often referring to counterfeits as the “cancer” of its e-commerce site.

The Group’s Platform Governance Department identified 4,495 leads regarding counterfeiting in 2016. Each involved a value of goods exceeding the statutory minimum of RMB50,000 for criminal investigation. Of these, only 1,184 of the cases were taken on by the relevant authority, which ultimately led to just 33 convictions.

In a bid to tackle counterfeiting, Alibaba launched a blockchain trial in Australia and New Zealand back in April last year, to reduce the amount of fake food and wine that was appearing on the e-commerce platform.

The trial followed the e-commerce giant’s announcement in 2017 that Alibaba would be working with PwC in Australia, New Zealand, and China to set-up a framework that could uphold product authenticity standards, to ensure the online shopping platform is safe and trustworthy for consumers.

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Heather Bone