When Amazon’s Counterfeit Crime Unit (CCU) was formed in 2020, we set out with the goal of dismantling international counterfeit organisations as part of Amazon’s broader work to safeguard customers, brands, selling partners, and Amazon’s store from counterfeit, fraud, and other forms of abuse.
Through continued investment in advanced machine learning techniques, Amazon has improved its proactive controls to further automate and scale intellectual property protection and counterfeit detection systems. However, there are still those who attempt to sell counterfeit products in the Amazon store through evasive tactics. In those instances, CCU aggressively pursues these bad actors wherever they may be operating. Over the past three years, CCU has followed counterfeit signals up the supply chain in the pursuit of counterfeiting networks at their source.
To do this, we provide law enforcement with evidence to support criminal investigations and raid actions, working in conjunction with our brand partners. This year, as a result of the information sharing and coordination with Amazon, law enforcement agencies conducted dozens of raids on counterfeit operations across the globe, where Amazon successfully identified hundreds of bad actors, many of whom are manufacturers, suppliers, or downstream distributors of counterfeit products. Acting against these groups benefits Amazon sellers and customers, as well as the entire retail industry.
Here are a few examples of how our team has worked with law enforcement to remove counterfeits from the supply chain, protecting customers worldwide.
Major raid targeting counterfeit auto accessories in China
In March, using intelligence provided by Amazon’s CCU, members of our team accompanied roughly 150 officers from Chinese law enforcement, or Public Security Bureaus (PSBs), to raid five locations where we suspected a large automotive counterfeiting organisation was operating.
Across offices, warehouses, factories, and personal residences, our teams worked with the PSBs to seize materials ranging from business licenses to 40,000 counterfeit auto accessories and IP-infringing car logo stickers across more than 30 auto brands. Teams also confiscated 270 production tools used to manufacture the counterfeit accessories, eliminating the opportunity for other bad actors to use the machines.
CCU takes action against counterfeit rings across Europe
In May, our European teams worked with London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and Philips, the maker of Philips Sonicare toothbrushes, to identify and disrupt counterfeiting rings in the UK attempting to manufacture and sell counterfeit electric-toothbrush heads.
PIPCU, supported by Amazon’s CCU, raided multiple businesses and residences in London, where they seized thousands of counterfeit toothbrush heads and arrested a man suspected of contributing to the scheme.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Masterson from the London PIPCU underscored the importance of companies and law enforcement working together to tackle the issue of counterfeiting.
"Effective collaboration between private companies and the public sector is key to tackling intellectual property crime and dismantling the organised criminal enterprises that can be found behind it,” said Masterson. “No single organisation or police agency could hope to be effective in combatting an issue of this scale on its own.”
These actions come on the heels of additional activity in Europe, where our team filed a joint civil suit with Brother targeting a counterfeiting ring attempting to sell Brother ink cartridges. In collaboration with Brother, we also referred the case to German law enforcement. The bad actors involved purchased empty original Brother toner cartridges and refilled them with inauthentic toner powder, in addition to selling fake cartridges designed to look like genuine products. The bad actors took steps to hide their intentions, such as adding fake holographic security labels designed to mimic those on authentic Brother cartridge packaging.
Isao Noji, the managing director of Brother International Europe Ltd., said of the lawsuit, “Brother places its customers first everywhere, every time. We are committed to detecting counterfeits online and offline by working with our partners such as Amazon CCU and law enforcement authorities in order to protect our customers.”
Intelligence from previous raids leading to additional actions this year
Earlier this year, Amazon and local Chinese PSBs used intelligence gained from our previous raid efforts that disrupted three major counterfeiting networks to further dismantle sprawling counterfeit networks. Read more about the initial 2022 counterfeit raids.
Working with Amazon’s CCU, Chinese law enforcement conducted seven additional raids against 30 bad actors across four cities. From these raids, law enforcement seized hundreds of items of counterfeit clothing and shoes, and importantly confiscated nearly 50,000 infringing labels from more than a dozen brands that would have been attached to counterfeit products, such as clothing, to deceive customers.
Our teams’ actions targeted the bad actors responsible for manufacturing the counterfeit materials as well as the downstream distributors who attempted to sell the products through five other retailers. In this way, our actions protected Amazon customers and the broader retail industry.
Building on prior success and looking to 2024
Last year, Amazon sued or referred for investigation more than 1,300 criminals in China, EU, UK, and U.S., and disposed of more than 6 million counterfeit products, preventing them from being sold anywhere in the supply chain. We continue to build on our successes, and while we are proud of the progress made, we also know bad actors are constantly evolving their tactics to evade detection.
We will relentlessly innovate to protect customers and work closely with all stakeholders committed to collaborating with us to remain two steps ahead, as we strive toward the shared goal of eliminating counterfeits across the retail industry.
Stay up to date with the latest news from Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit.