On June 24, 2020, Amazon announced the launch of a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit in an effort to stifle the trade of counterfeit goods on the company's international marketplace. According to Amazon, the unit is a global team comprising "former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts"1 that will allow the company "to more effectively pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters"2 by using Amazon's own internal data, third-party payment service providers, and "on-the-ground"3 assets to identify bad actors and bring them to justice.
"Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they're located," said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president, Customer Trust and Partner Support, Amazon. "We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement—through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets—is one of the most effective ways to stop them."4
This move is Amazon's latest attempt to deal with the issue of counterfeit goods being sold in its online marketplace. In late 2017, Amazon launched its "Transparency" program, allowing manufacturers and sellers to affix individualized barcodes to their goods, which are then used by Amazon to authenticate the origin of the product.5 This method requires manufacturers and sellers to buy into the program, however, with prices ranging from one cent to five cents per barcode. In February 2019, Amazon announced Project Zero, another program designed to tackle the growing issue of counterfeit trafficking.6 Project Zero integrates the serialized barcodes of Transparency with AI-assisted, automated scans of product listings, and self-service counterfeit removal capabilities that allow brands to remove suspected counterfeit listings without first alerting Amazon.
Despite the implementation of these programs in the past several years, the traffic of counterfeit goods remains a problem for Amazon. It is the company's hope that the new crime unit will "enable Amazon to more effectively pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters."7