It has been a fantastic year for The Global IP Matrix magazine, thanks to all the efforts made by our contributors and to you, the reader for your continued support. We take great pleasure in putting together each issue of this publication, and we sincerely hope you enjoy this final issue of 2019. We have again, collaborated with some of the world's most influential IP law firms and businesses to bring you another eclectic mix of content, direct from the professionals working at ground level. We are already excited for the coming year and cannot wait to continue growing and evolving in our partnerships to bring you some exciting new features for 2020.
Ms. Elvin Hassan
Editor & Head of international liaisons
The self-service tool allows a brand to search the Amazon platform and, if they believe they’ve found a counterfeit, the brand can take it down itself. This gives brands unprecedented power to control and remove listings from the Amazon store directly. “I’m excited about the technology advances underneath the protections... I’m not aware of anyone else that, at scale, is giving brands access to remove products from their store directly.” Mehta. However, in order to maintain this autonomy, brands must maintain a high bar for accuracy. There are several processes in place to promote accuracy, including required training as part of Project Zero enrolment and ongoing monitoring to prevent misuse of these tools. Some brands who have unfortunately not managed to reach this level of accuracy, have been removed from the programme. Abuse of Power “There’s been a couple of cases where brands [have been] abusing the self-service counterfeit removal tool, so we’ve removed a small number of brands from the project,” warned Mehta. Product Serialisation Scheme The final tool is a product serialisation capability, which provides brands with a unique code for every product it manufactures and allows Amazon to scan and verify the authenticity of every unit before it is shipped to a customer. Product serialisation is a powerful tool for detecting and stopping counterfeits from reaching customers. Brands also have the choice to determine which of their products to serialise. Brands do not need to serialise their products to enrol in Project Zero. However, the brands that do serialise their products are reportedly seeing the best results. Merchants obtain tracking numbers from Amazon and apply them to their products and packaging, so Amazon’s systems can scan items for authenticity. It builds upon the Brand Registry, for registering logos and trademarks to facilitate detection of infringement, introduced in 2017. “Unlike other companies, Amazon’s product serialisation is more proactive,” said Mehta. “Many other companies will apply a unique code during the manufacturing process, so the customer is able to scan the code after purchasing the project, which is entirely reactive,” he said. The Success of Project Zero in the USA Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Amazon Worldwide Customer Trust and Partner Support, spoke about the US version of the project and the progress it’s made. “More than 99.9% of the products that consumers view have never received a counterfeit complaint,” Mehta said. He added that while that’s a high rate of authentic products being sold on Amazon, it’s not perfect and it’s not resulting in zero counterfeits. “How could we combine what Amazon has in terms of strengths in technology, machine learning, and innovation with the strengths brands have in the intimate knowledge of their own products and IP? Moreover, how can we work together to drive products to zero?” he said. While Mehta is not an expert in what other online platforms are doing, he believes that each of the components of Amazon’s suite is unique. “More than 99.9% of the products that consumers view have never received a counterfeit complaint,” Mehta said. He added that while that’s a high rate of authentic products being sold on Amazon, it’s not perfect and it’s not resulting in zero counterfeits. Mehta concludes: “The initial results from Project Zero have been promising and we will keep improving – we will continue to refine our technology, expand to more countries, and will continue to work with brands to drive counterfeits to zero.” “A core part of that memo is around the value and impact we can have by government organisations, brands, marketplaces … working together to stop counterfeits. We’re super aligned with that, and I think there’s more we can do there,” explained Mehta. The brands that are using serialisation as part of Project Zero haven’t used the self-service counterfeit removal at all, according to Mehta. Also, for those brands using the self-service tool, Amazon has received zero notices of counterfeits from them. Deterrent Effect Mehta also believes that while criminal referrals are not the end-all solution, they are a significant deterrent; “If you look at digital piracy and what happened several decades ago in terms of monetary and criminal penalties, I don’t think counterfeiting has kept pace.” He added, “The more we can do to create additional disincentives for the bad actor and get better at detecting them is good for all of us.” Lisa Lovell, CEO of Brand Enforcement UK Ltd, concludes, “As well as online enforcement initiatives such as Project Zero, many brand owners combine these efforts with offline enforcement initiatives. Many of our clients not only want to disrupt online trade; they also want to follow the money to obtain some physical evidence in the form of a product. From this, we can establish far greater intelligence about whoever is operating the online listing. It often leads us to warehouses where all of the stock is kept”. Where physical evidence is found in the United Kingdom, brand owners can also work with Trading Standards so that they may consider bringing a criminal action against the offender on behalf of the brand. “We liaise with Trading Standards on behalf of our clients, provide them with the relevant witness statements and documentary evidence in order that they may pay an informal or even official visit to the trader’s premises. They can make official enquiries as to the source of the supply of the goods and can even bring a prosecution on behalf of the brand which costs nothing but the time it takes to draft the witness statement”. In some circumstances where Trading Standards may not be able to assist due to resource issues, brands may want to consider bringing a private criminal prosecution or a civil action. “Once the physical evidence has been gathered, we are able to utilise this for either private criminal or civil actions. In any event, it is essential that brands must think about their online efforts versus their offline efforts as a combination of both will always bring the best results.” Learn more about Project Zero and sign up to join the waiting list at www.projectzero.com 36 www.gipmatrix.com