Amazon has just announced Project Zero to potentially assist brand owners in combating counterfeit goods by removing products likely to be fake from the online retailer's platform. Project Zero would allow brand owners to designate product listings for removal, instead of undergoing Amazon's prior reporting and removal process, which required brand owners to report counterfeit products to an internal Amazon team for investigation prior to removal. So far, Amazon has tested the Project Zero pilot program with several brands over the past few months, but will not open up Project Zero to additional companies through an invitation process. Amazon hopes that eventually all brand owners will be able to join the program.
Using Project Zero, brands provide trademarks, logos, etc., and Amazon scans listings daily, looking for suspected counterfeits. Brands can log into an online portal to search for keywords or images of their products on Amazon, and click listings they believe to be infringing. Amazon then removes either the item at issue, or the seller automatically. The ability to remove counterfeit listings is free, but brand owners can also utilize a Project Zero tool that generates a unique serialized barcode for each product unit, which the brand owner can print onto its product packaging or attach to products via a sticker. Brand owners and Amazon can then use those codes to ensure product authenticity when they enter an Amazon warehouse. The product codes cost between roughly 1 and 5 cents each, depending upon the volume at issue. While participation in Project Zero is currently by invitation only, Amazon currently has a waitlist for participation. In order to participate, brand owners have to have registered trademarks and be enrolled in Amazon's brand registry.
Accordingly, if you are a brand owner, or represent a brand owner, now would be a good time to shore up your company's registered trademark protection. Likewise, if your brand is fortunate enough to participate in the Project Zero program, the brand should not abuse its discretion in removing suspect product listings, as brand owners must "maintain a high bar for accuracy in order to maintain their Project Zero privileges." Amazon Project Zero training is also required for users participating in the anti-counterfeiting program.