Amazon Counterfeit Protection
It’s no secret that playing by the rules is getting more and more difficult as an Amazon seller, and as the perpetrators of counterfeit goods steadily rises, you may be tempted to resort to unorthodox methods and black hat tactics to get the job done - but don’t fall into that dark hole! There are a number of things Amazon is doing and you can do for counterfeit protection.
Although it may seem that Amazon’s counterfeit protection is rather lax in enforcing their policy of zero tolerance for bad sellers and counterfeit products, you can rest assured that they are actively investing in the issue to help quell the flow of counterfeit goods on their platform.
A 2017 estimate suggests the global market for counterfeit goods had reached $1.2 trillion, and subverted more than $300 billion worth of revenue from brands that have to compete with fakes. The U.S. Government of Accountability Office found in 2018 that two out of every five products purchased online were counterfeit. According to reports, Amazon spent more than $400 million in 2018 to combat fakes, most of which come from mainland China, and more than once has sued its own third-party sellers for selling fake goods.
Whether you are currently tackling this problem as an Amazon seller or just doing the research, we are here to help you gather the facts and arm yourself with proven, Amazon approved strategies to help you defend your listings from the wave of counterfeiters.
Amazon Counterfeit Protection: Plan of Action
1. Seller Verification
This is Amazon’s first line of defense in the war against counterfeits. While it may be bad news that there are more counterfeit products on Amazon than ever before. The good news is that Amazon is aware of the problem and is actively enforcing account verification, which has prevented tens of thousands of bad sellers from exploiting their counterfeit products on the platform.
2. Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry is a program that gives brand owners access to tools that help you take control of your brand identity on Amazon, while defending your brand against potential counterfeiters. Brand Registry ensures that your trademark and copyright claims are legitimate, while providing you with the necessary tools to find and report violations. Brand owners can then share information that can help Amazon proactively prevent future violations. Another key benefit of having Brand Registry is the access that you have to cutting edge marketing tools, such as A+ Content, Amazon Storefronts, and Vine Voice review program.
3. Listing Policy Enforcement
Using this strategy, you can have more control over your listings and variations, without having to worry about sneaky sellers trying to twist your variations or slip in an improper child into one of your listings. Bad actors can often subtly manipulate your listings using Vendor Central to modify your PDP’s in an attempt to suspend your listing or your seller account, which, obviously, can be extremely damaging to both your sales and your reputation on Amazon. Policies do change frequently, however, so we recommend conducting an annual compliance check on all listings as well as your account.
Amazon Transparency is a highly effective way to combat frauds, and is specifically designed to address the counterfeit problem by protecting both your brand and your customers from counterfeiters. Amazon uses a serialization process to help identify units that have undergone the authentication process. Amazon provides brand owners with transparency codes for their products. The transparency codes help to ensure only authentic units are shipped to customers.
This helps Amazon proactively prevent fake versions of your product from flooding their platform and reaching customers. Another feature of Transparency enrollment, is that both brand owners and customers can use the Transparency app to authenticate units themselves, regardless of where they purchase the product. In addition to enabling customers to authenticate products, brands can also use Transparency to communicate unit-level product information, including manufacturing dates, manufacturing place, and enhanced product information, such as ingredients.
5. Project Zero - Stop Counterfeits Before They Hit the Warehouse!
One of the only forms of brand gating left on the Amazon platform is Project Zero. This process uses Amazon’s algorithm to pre-emptively take down and suspend listings for “suspected infringement” - before inventory even hits their warehouses. Project Zero will not stop counterfeiters or or trademark infringers who create their own listings, however, and you will need Brand Registry to fight that specific issue. While Project Zero won’t stop the trafficking of stolen goods entirely, it does make selling fraudulent versions of your product extremely difficult.
In order to become a seller on the platform, Amazon requires proof that the business and owner are indeed authentic. Amazon has a strict, zero tolerance policy for inconsistent documentation which keeps fraudulent accounts at bay, especially if they can’t provide the proper trademarks, business licenses, and registered product identifiers. The bottom line is that if you fail the rigorous verification process that is set by Amazon, then you will never be approved to sell on their platform. So it’s important to ensure your documents are in proper order from the beginning. The following documents are required to sign up as a seller on Amazon:
- Credit card
- Tax ID
- Utility bill
- A state-issued identity
- All official business addresses
- Supplier information, such as invoices, that establish proof of legitimate business transactions
Defense is the Best Offense - What You Can Do
Counterfeiters are counting on you to drop the ball, so to speak - don’t give them the satisfaction of being able to hijack your product or your listing. Here are a few things that you can do to proactively protect your brand:
1. Register Your Intellectual Property
This one seems obvious but it is so important to establish ownership of your brand via Trademarks, Patents or Copyrights. If you don’t, someone else may.
2. Enforce Your Intellectual Property
If you don’t actively protect your intellectual property on Amazon, you are setting yourself up for failure, and can expect to lose it. Be the first to the draw! There are many sellers looking for a loophole or an open opportunity to hijack brand ownership, which can cut into your profits significantly.
3. Monitor Your Listings Regularly
Make sure to scan your listings for unauthorized sellers and PDP changes by setting up a tracking sheet - depending on the size of your catalog, this only takes a few minutes out of your day, and should be a best practice for any seller on Amazon.
4. Keep a Close Eye on All of Your Reviews
Watch out for any potential issues or suspicious content by keeping an eye on both positive and negative reviews.
5. Make Sure Your Listings are Compliant
Chances are, if you are playing by the rules, then counterfeiters are much less likely to find a way to hijack your listing or report your product page.
6. Report Bad Behavior, Even if Amazon Ignores the Issue
It is much better to be safe than sorry, and have documentation that supports your case and defends your position in the case that Amazon requests evidence.
No Silver Bullet
At the end of the day, there is definitely no silver bullet to use in your fight against fakes, but ultimately, your plan of attack should be this: be proactive, and don’t wait for the worst case scenario to play out. Defense is the best strategy and a little time spent properly planning will pay off big time in the long run.
The Awesome Dynamic team is well versed in understanding the challenges that sellers are faced with and dealing with protecting your brand. If you’d like more information about how our team can help you stay proactive with your business strategy, let’s begin with scheduling a free consultation.