QR Code Technology as a Weapon Against Counterfeit Goods on Amazon

Amazon announced the launch of a revolutionary initiative that gives vendors the power to help combat counterfeiting, called Project Zero. This ambitious campaign will utilize Amazon's sophisticated technology, machine learning, and creativity to protect intellectual property and eradicate counterfeit items. 

To make this happen, Amazon is collaborating with participating vendors to detect and remove fraudulent products using three impressive tools: automated protection systems, self-service counterfeit removal, and product serialization. By introducing Project Zero, Amazon strives to ensure that customers always receive genuine items when shopping on the platform.

But what is behind this new project, and what technology will allow Amazon to protect its customers? Read on!

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Illustration: MilicaM

How does Amazon fight against counterfeit goods? 

Amazon’s battle against counterfeit goods is done via a revolutionary suite of three powerful tools that work in unison to protect both brands and customers from being duped by fake products. Utilizing Amazon’s advanced machine learning (ML) algorithms, the automated protection tool is constantly scanning 5 billion product listings daily in order to determine their authenticity by examining data such as logos, trademarks, and other pertinent information.  

To prove its effectiveness, Amazon conducted extensive tests with various brands, and the tool managed to detect 100 times more suspected counterfeit products than those identified through manual reports from brands. 

By combining automated protections, a self-service counterfeit removal tool, and product serialization services, brands and customers can be sure that what they’re buying is the real deal. The self-service counterfeit removal tool gives brands the power to quickly remove suspected counterfeit products from the marketplace.  

Product serialization services add a unique serial number to each product in the manufacturing process, allowing Amazon to scan and verify its authenticity before it reaches the customer. Currently available in 10 countries, this advanced technology continues to improve with data collection and make counterfeit removal increasingly accurate and effective. 

Project Zero vs. Transparency 

Amazon has created two groundbreaking initiatives to fight against counterfeit products: Amazon Project Zero and Amazon Transparency.  

Project Zero uses cutting-edge technology to proactively detect and remove counterfeits from the Amazon marketplace, while Transparency provides customers with a way to authenticate the products they purchase. Each item enrolled in Transparency has a unique code – be it a barcode or QR code – which customers can scan using their smartphone to confirm the product’s authenticity.  

These two programs are revolutionizing the way Amazon protects its customers from counterfeits. 

What are Transparency Barcodes? 

Are you curious about Amazon’s Transparency Barcodes used in product serialization? These 2D QR codes are designed to help customers authenticate products before they are shipped. With the Amazon Brand Protection Report, Amazon shares more details on how the program works.  

When enrolled in the Amazon Transparency program, sellers attach unique T-shaped barcodes to their products. Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) sellers are given these barcodes to attach to their product packaging before sending it off for shipping. Amazon will then scan the barcodes to verify if the products are real. If they are, they are shipped to customers. If not, they are earmarked as a potential counterfeit item.  

To make it even easier to verify authenticity, Amazon has even developed a mobile app that shoppers can use to scan products and check if they are genuine. If they are, a green tick will be shown. Otherwise, a red cross will appear – so shoppers can always know if they are getting the real deal. 

Limitations 

Project Zero by Amazon, one of the programs for battling against counterfeits, has certain advantages; however, it is not without its flaws. For example, brands without a trademark cannot benefit from this program, thus leaving them exposed to counterfeiters.  

Furthermore, if a counterfeit product has a different ASIN than the Brand ASIN, the tool won’t be able to identify it. Another issue is that Project Zero only deals with counterfeits, ignoring other intellectual property violations, such as trademark misuse.  

To protect their brands from such infringements, brands need to utilize services like Amazon IP Accelerator. Serialization of products may be a costly affair for big brands, particularly when they offer their products at a lower cost and have multiple items.  

Additionally, Amazon is transitioning away from identifying and eliminating counterfeits, handing the responsibility over to the brands. While it’s beneficial that brands can take swift action against counterfeits, they have to expend substantial resources to monitor infringements continually. 

Advantages 

The program is a must-have for brands and customers alike. Here’s why users should consider it: Not only will it help to make more profits, but it also offers enhanced transparency, which guards against counterfeit goods and hijackers selling items.  

With unique codes generated by Amazon for transparency-enabled units, buyers can be assured that any products they purchase will be of superior quality and from the rightful source. Ultimately, this means increased sales and assurance of quality for customers.  

Cybercrime 

Counterfeit products are just a small slice of the pie when it comes to cybercrime. Criminals also use social networks (e.g., Promoted rogue content on Instagram) and deceptive websites that show up on Google search results to further their agenda. 

According to Carlos Carrillo, Head of Enforcement at Smart Protection (a company that looks to protect sellers and their customers), “Pirates are constantly jumping from one online venue to the next. When they get booted off Amazon, they go to AliExpress; if we combat them there, they simply move on to Wish.” 

With such deceptive practices and stubbornness when it comes to creating counterfeit goods and duping sellers, Amazon’s technology can be a boon for the future of e-commerce.  

Can NFTs help? 

Since September 2021, Vogue Singapore has been leveraging the power of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to make its magazine covers more authentic and engaging.

By incorporating a QR code, readers can access exclusive fashion memorabilia and bask in the unique design of the cover they helped create. As the metaverse continues to grow on the internet, luxury businesses and periodicals are increasingly leveraging digital offerings like NFTs to confirm their products’ legitimacy. 

There were news that Amazon might introduce NFTs, but no comments have been made by the company, nor whether they would be used for ensuring the authenticity of items and products the company sells. However, there might be more solutions to Amazon’s counterfeit issue, though NFTs might be too complicated for numerous sellers, thus limiting their utility.  

Conclusion 

Retailers and sellers on the Amazon marketplace have to deal with a variety of challenges, including product counterfeiting. Unchecked, counterfeiters can devastate a reputation, brand’s image, and bottom line.  

So enrolling products in Amazon transparency – a serialization service – to make sure customers get only the real deal could potentially solve counterfeiting issues on Amazon. An additional benefit for users of Transparency services is being part of the campaign that is helping Amazon fight counterfeiters, which allows the marketplace to thrive.  

Protecting a brand, sales, and customers is a priority. Utilizing Transparency Barcodes in combination with other security-strengthening strategies can help keep sellers one step ahead of the counterfeiters. However, as a business expands and products diversify, sellers will need to employ the initiative on and off the Amazon platform.  

Thus, sellers will have to make use of technology-driven solutions to monitor product, listing, and IP infringements. Investigate security protocols for eCommerce companies and stay current with defenses. There’s always more sellers can do to battle counterfeiting, and Amazon’s technologies are there to help them.  

Dino Kurbegović is a project coordinator and an investor and technology enthusiast with years of experience in managing complex projects. His journey into content writing began in 2014, covering finance, investing, crypto, technology and complex technical topics.

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