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Amazon’s Project Zero Gives Brands a DIY Approach to Counterfeiting

Amazon is taking an important step to silence its critics and attack a counterfeiting problem that’s plagued its platform for years.

Over a two-year period, Amazon customers reported more than 5,000 fakes on the e-commerce platform, a fraction of the tens of thousands that advocacy group The Counterfeit Report tallied over the same timeframe, Axios reported. Birkenstock said it was forced to pull its products from Amazon’s European site as the online retailer did little to combat counterfeit sales of its iconic footwear.

The Seattle-based retailer announced in its blog a new effort it calls Project Zero, an initiative that takes a three-pronged approach to stopping counterfeits in greater numbers.

First, “automated protections” use machine learning technology to scan 5 billion product listings daily and ferret out suspected knockoffs. So far beta tests show the method is 100 times more effective in proactively preempting counterfeits than the previous approach of taking down fakes after the fact, according to Amazon.

On top of that, Amazon now enables brands to remove counterfeit listings themselves. This do-it-yourself approach speeds up the takedown process significantly; previously, brands had to file a report with Amazon, which would then investigate. Listings removed using the self-service tool feed into automated protections so it can better detect future fakes.

Along with these enhancements, Project Zero requires brands to serialize their products at the point of manufacture. Amazon will scan each product’s unique serialization code to verify authenticity, preventing counterfeits from shipping to customers.

“Project Zero, with its automated protections and the self-service removal of counterfeit products, is a significant development that will help ensure our customers receive authentic Vera Bradley products from Amazon,” said Mark Dely, chief legal and administrator officer for Vera Bradley.

Phil Blizzard, founder and CEO of pet products firm Thunderworks, claims his company’s counterfeiting problem “has nearly disappeared in the United States” since enrolling in Project Zero.

Amazon said Project Zero is available to brands by invitation only and is working to get new businesses enrolled.