The American Apparel and Footwear Association has long railed against Amazon for failing to adequately police the knockoff wares showing up on its highly trafficked platform. Allowing ersatz goods to crop up unchecked not only harms legitimate brands, it argues, but also puts consumers at risk, given the oft-unsavory and unregulated conditions in which counterfeits are produced.
The suit, filed jointly with Yeti Coolers in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges the defendants, Michael and Karen White of San Diego, operated in concert with each other in their attempts to sell counterfeit Yeti products. The defendants, Amazon said, violated Amazon’s policies, Yeti’s intellectual property rights and the law. The company said it closed their selling accounts and refunded impacted customers.
“We do not allow counterfeits in our store and we take aggressive action to hold bad actors that attempt to evade our proactive protections accountable,” Cristina Posa, associate general counsel and director, Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit, said in a statement. “We appreciate Yeti’s close cooperation throughout this investigation.”
Amazon’s Yeti joint lawsuit arrived on the heels of two new anti-counterfeiting initiatives, both announced last week, and bolsters its claims that it’s serious about cracking down on the fakes flooding its platform.
Late last month, the company launched its Intellectual Property Accelerator in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The initiative will make it easier and more cost effective for small and medium-sized businesses to obtain trademarks, protect their brands and tackle counterfeit goods, Amazon said.
Available to any brand selling in its stores, IP Accelerator connects entrepreneurs directly with a curated network of European law firms with expertise in IP rights. Participating law firms will charge fees to SMBs at competitive, pre-negotiated rates, providing sellers with confidence about how much obtaining a trademark will cost them, Amazon said. SMBs will also be able to turn to these law firms to seek general IP advice as their brands and businesses grow, it added.
The day prior, Amazon announced the launch of a joint operation with the U.S. government’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and DHL, it added, are also supporting the operation.
Led by Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit, Operation Fulfilled Action will analyze data and conduct targeted inspections at U.S. ports of entry with the aim of preventing counterfeit products from entering the U.S. supply chain. Amazon said it and the IPR Center will leverage evidence obtained during the operation to expand ongoing investigations, “with the goal of holding bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Amazon conducts investigations and sidelines inventory if we suspect a product may be counterfeit, ensuring our customers are protected,” Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of customer trust and partner support at Amazon, said in a statement. “But we also know that counterfeiters don’t just attempt to offer their wares in one store, they attempt to offer them in multiple places. Now, by combining intelligence from Amazon, the IPR Center, and other agencies, we’re able to stop counterfeits at the border, regardless of where bad actors were intending to offer them.”
Previous counterfeiting lawsuits
Earlier in November, Amazon filed a lawsuit against 13 individuals and businesses who it said promoted faux luxury products on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok. The suit alleges the defendants operated in concert with each other to sell counterfeit products and engage in false advertising.
Among the defendants are Kelly Fitzpatrick—a former member of the Amazon Influencer Program—and Sabrina Kelly-Krejci, who Amazon said would post side-by-side photos of generic, non-branded product and luxury imitations, accompanied by the caption, “Order this/Get this.” By posting only generic products on its marketplace, Amazon said the pair attempted to evade its anti-counterfeit protections while using social media to promote the true nature of their products.
“These defendants were brazen about promoting counterfeits on social media and undermined the work of legitimate influencers,” Posa said. “This case demonstrates the need for cross-industry collaboration in order to drive counterfeiters out of business.
In late October, Amazon and baby accessories company J.L. Childress unsealed a lawsuit they filed on Aug. 10 against 11 named individuals for counterfeiting the latter’s products, including travel bags for car seats and strollers.
J.L Childress said it hoped the joint action would not only “hold all bad actors accountable,” but also “educate other small businesses to take due diligence in protecting their brands.”
“For over 35 years and two generations, our family has worked to establish a brand that parents can trust and to provide families with products that give them peace of mind while traveling, knowing that their valuable car seats and strollers are protected,” J.L. Childress said in a statement. “Protecting the J.L. Childress trademark is more than just a business function, it is safeguarding our mother’s name and our family’s legacy.”
On Aug. 12, Amazon and KF Beauty jointly filed a lawsuit against four companies and 16 individuals who they say counterfeited KF Beauty’s Wunder2 beauty products and offered the infringing products for sale in Amazon’s stores.
According to the online marketplace, the defendants operated a shell company in Wyoming and at least one of the individual defendants was identified as residing in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. If the defendants are found liable and a judgement is collected, Amazon said KF Beauty will receive the proceeds. Amazon said it refunded the purchases of all customers who received counterfeit KF Beauty products.
In June, Amazon and Valentino announced a joint lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y.-based Kaitlyn Pan Group and New York resident Hao Pan. The defendants, they claimed, counterfeited the Italian luxury label’s iconic Valentino Garavani Rockstud shoes and offered the infringing products for sale on Amazon’s site as well as kaitlynpanshoes.com.
Amazon said it shut down Kaitlyn Pan’s seller account in September of last year. Despite multiple notices of infringement and a cease and desist order, it claimed Kaitlyn Pan continued to import, distribute, sell and offer infringing products on its own site. Furthermore, it said the company attempted to apply for a U.S. trademark for the shoes in question.