Amazon offers its anti-fake serialization platform outside US

Amazon has said it will expand its item-level Transparency coding platform into Europe, India and Canada, two years after it launched in the US.

The product serialization service allows brands to apply unique T-shaped datamatrix codes to their products, giving each a unique identity, and which can be used by customers as an authentication measure by scanning them with a smartphone app.

Amazon says it has been adopted by more than 4,000 brands in the US since being rolled out initially on Amazon’s own product range, although it’s not clear what proportion that is of all brands that appear on the platform.

Companies are responsible for adding the codes to the units they intend to sell, and every time one of these products is ordered via Amazon, the online retailer scans and verifies the code before shipping. This means that only authentic units can reach customers, claims the online retail giant. The codes can also contain other information such as the data and location of manufacturing.

It provides some numbers to back up that assertion. 300m codes have been added to products so far, either provided as stickers by Amazon or printed directly onto product packaging, and more than 250,000 counterfeits of products covered by the Transparency programme have been blocked from reaching customers.

So far in 2019, there have been no reports of counterfeits being sold via Amazon sites for products “fully on-boarded into the Transparency service.”

The service – which costs between 1 and 5 cents per code depending on volume, has attracted some endorsements including this from Cowin, a manufacturer of noise cancelling audio devices.

“Blocking counterfeits from the source has always been a tough task for us – it’s something all brand owners face through nearly all channels around the world,” said Cowin chief executive Bill Mei. “After we joined Transparency, our counterfeit problem just disappeared for products protected by the programme.”

The expansion of the Transparency project comes as Amazon is under increased pressure to tackle the problem of counterfeit goods appearing on its platforms – something the company acknowledged officially for the first time in its 2018 annual report.

Last year the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) even called for some of its marketplaces to be included in the next edition of the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Notorious Markets list because of the problem of counterfeit product listings.

Since then, Amazon has introduced another new anti-counterfeit toolbox – called Project Zero – aimed at using artificial intelligence and machine learning to seek out and delete suspected counterfeit listings.

Meanwhile, technological approaches such as these are also being supplemented by legal actions against sellers who list counterfeits on Amazon, and the company also set up its Brand Registry – a platform for registering logos and trademarks to facilitate detection of infringement – in 2017.

Critics have suggested however that the retail giant still needs to do more to protect intellectual property on its platform.

“Counterfeits [on Amazon] is a problem that has been growing exponentially year-on-year, with minimal tangible action taken to address the issue,” says Tosshan Ramgolam of brand protection specialist Incopro.

“Whilst they have put some initiatives…in place, they are not doing enough to stop the problem.”

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