Amazon’s Project Zero Lets Brands Delist Counterfeit Goods

In the fight against counterfeiting, Amazon has introduced Project Zero, which allows brand owners to delete listings they deem to be fake. This is the first time that Amazon has shared responsibility for policing counterfeiting, reasoning that it is more efficient for brands than navigating the company’s reporting process. After testing Project Zero with 15 brands for several months, Amazon will begin to select and invite additional brands, with the goal of making it available to all brand owners at some unspecified future date.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Project Zero includes “a tool that generates a unique code for each product unit that the brand can print onto existing packaging or attach onto items using a sticker,” which, when scanned, can “ensure a product’s authenticity when it enters an Amazon warehouse.”

According to Amazon, “its engineers are working to better train the algorithms that automatically scan, block and scrub the site of suspect listings, with the ultimate goal of completely eliminating counterfeits and the need for brands to be involved.”

Amazon’s Project Zero is unusual, in that most tech companies hire an outside contractor to monitor counterfeiting, “but don’t generally let users remove content.”

“We realize we’re not perfect,” said Amazon vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support Dharmesh Mehta. “It really puts the power in the brands’ hands.”

Counterfeit products have been a long-time problem at Amazon, and brands including Birkenstock and Swatch Group have complained to Amazon about the problem. To encourage rapid growth, Amazon has made it simple to list products on its site, which has opened the door for “impostors to peddle ersatz versions of hot-selling items.”

“It’s like the Wild West of retail,” said WordApe chief executive Aaron Muller, who found fake versions of his company’s product and, with the new tools, removed them. Before Project Zero, which has allowed him to completely stop counterfeiters, Muller said that blocking counterfeiters was akin to Whac-A-Mole. In addition to removing counterfeit products, the brands participating in Project Zero are also helping to “train Amazon’s automated protection systems that scan the site constantly to block and scrub listings proactively.”

Although brands could potentially misuse the power of the program to “control pricing or maintain exclusivity,” Amazon trusts the brands not to do so — and will “closely monitor brands’ use of the system.” “Project Zero is absolutely about stopping counterfeit,” said Mehta. “Genuine unauthorized products are something that we welcome [for] the selection and convenience and pricing that provides customers.”