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Amazon, Ferragamo Team Up for New Counterfeit Crackdown

Chinese officials raiding a warehouse seized hundreds of counterfeit belts and buckle accessories after Amazon and Salvatore Ferragamo partnered with the authorities to sniff out and snuff out the operation.

Amazon’s recently formed Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) worked closely with Ferragamo to report a counterfeiter knocking off the brand’s Gancini leather belt to the Market Supervision and Administration (MSA) authorities located in Yiwu City in China’s Zhejiang Province. The counterfeiters attempted to sell the belts on Amazon as original Ferragamo brand merchandise.

The Gancini belt itself is one of Ferragamo’s most well-known accessories, defined by its link-shaped buckle the brand uses as a logo for its other products.

The e-commerce giant and the Italian luxury goods maker have been working together to go after counterfeiters selling infringing Ferragamo products on Amazon’s marketplace, filing two joint lawsuits last year in a U.S. federal court.

Both companies alleged the defendants of that case—four individuals and three entities in total—conspired to use Ferragamo’s registered trademarks, without authorization, to deceive customers about the authenticity and origin of the products and the affiliation with Ferragamo.

“Amazon is grateful for the collaboration from Ferragamo and the MSA in protecting customers from these counterfeit products,” said Kebharu Smith, head of Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit. “This should serve as a reminder that bad actors will be held accountable, as Amazon collaborates with both brands and law enforcement agencies around the world to stop inauthentic products from being sold across the retail industry.”

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For a luxury label like Salvatore Ferragamo, anti-counterfeiting measures are critical to maintaining a positive brand image. The Italian firm has implemented a series of offline and online actions to protect its customers and brand with a meaningful impact so far.

In 2021, the luxury firm successfully got more than 22,000 infringing products and pieces of illicit content off social media platforms. Another 130,000-plus listings related to counterfeit products were identified and removed from marketplace service providers. Last year, Salvatore Ferragamo also carried out regular controls on physical stores launching several in-and out-of-court administrative and criminal proceedings, with a specific focus on China. With increasing cooperation from local authorities, almost 450,000 counterfeit products were seized worldwide, it added.

Amazon has worked to keep counterfeits off its platform and combat fake or incentivized product reviews, and now Chinese actors appear to be in its crosshairs. Over five months last year, the e-commerce giant kicked 600 China-based brands across 3,000 different seller accounts off its marketplace for knowingly and repeatedly violating its policies around significant review abuse.

China itself has been a hotbed for counterfeiting, battling concerns that intellectual property theft has run rampant for years. In February, The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the findings of its 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, placing Chinese e-commerce giant AliExpress and social media titan WeChat on the list for the first time. The list identified 42 online markets and 35 physical markets that are said to engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy, and includes major Chinese platforms such as Baidu Wangpan, DHGate, Pinduoduo and Taobao.

Despite the Chinese focus, Amazon has extended its anti-fraud endeavors worldwide, starting with its expanded partnership with the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) in 2020. That year, Amazon invested more than $700 million and employed more than 10,000 people to proactively protect its marketplace from fraud, counterfeit and abuse. The company uses tools to verify potential sellers’ identities and ensure product listings authenticity.

The company also launched the CCU in 2020 to help hold counterfeiters accountable through global courts and law enforcement. This team of former federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, as well as experienced investigators and data analysts pursues targets worldwide.

Amazon’s proprietary systems analyze hundreds of unique data points to verify information provided by potential sellers. In 2020, only 6 percent of attempted new seller account registrations passed Amazon’s verification processes and listed products for sale, the company said. In addition, fewer than 0.01 percent of all products sold on Amazon received a counterfeit complaint from customers.

Amazon pointed to 10 separate instances of milestones and lawsuits since June 2020, including the joint complaint with Salvatore Ferragamo. It also teamed up with HanesBrands to file 13 suits against 17 defendants for selling protective earbud case covers that bear HanesBrands’ registered Champion trademark.

Amazon has also filed anti-counterfeiting lawsuits with outdoor drinkware and coolers seller Yeti, GoPro, grill maker Weber and French games publisher Asmodee.

In June 2020 Amazon filed a joint suit with Valentino against New York-based Kaitlyn Pan Group for allegedly counterfeiting the label’s shoes and offering them for sale online. This was Amazon’s first joint litigation with a luxury fashion brand, setting the tone for its February 2021 alliance with Ferragamo.

Other high-profile wins for the Big Tech firm include a September 2021 settlement with two social media influencers it had previously sued for promoting counterfeit luxury fashion goods on its site. Amazon also launched an Intellectual Property Accelerator (IP Accelerator) in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands in an effort to make it easier and more cost effective for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to obtain trademarks, protect their brands and tackle counterfeit goods.

Amazon and Ferragamo said they will continue to assist law enforcement in investigating counterfeiters and preventing their products from entering the global supply chain and nip fake goods in the bud.