Everyone loves a good dupe. Why pay $45 for that foundation when you can head to the drugstore and get something similar for $10? But what happens when the knockoffs become dangerous?
Recently, Amazon – the online superstore – launched its Counterfeit Crimes Unit as a response to the fake products being sold under false pretenses. Amazon allows third party vendors to sell items through its trusted site, however, the tech mogul can’t seem to keep up with the knockoffs. In fact, last year alone, Amazon spent $400 million fighting lawsuits related to fraud and counterfeit abuse. Even Amazon products are duplicated and sold for less.
While the company hosts a “brand registry” and offers clients the ability to flag fake products, the crimes unit is Amazon’s latest tactic to build trust with stakeholders. Even Nike has removed its product listings from the store because the presence of imposters pose a threat to their bottom line.
And in all seriousness, this is not just about profit – it’s about safety. One of the biggest departments attacked by fraud is baby items – strollers, slings, swings, and more. In 2019, a fashionable car seat listed at $499 was copied and listed for $299. When the fraudulent car seat was crash-tested, it broke immediately into pieces. Another baby item, a custom sleeping apparatus, was also duplicated. This time, the dupe posed numerous safety threats to sleeping infants.
Now, while Amazon isn’t liable for the damage caused by third party products, concerns are beginning to rise from the media, the public, and especially stores that claim they cannot afford to remove their products from the e-commerce giant. Not to mention, the fraudulent products threaten intellectual property rights.
Amazon often hides behind the Communications Decency Act, which removes liability for speech by one party when using the web site of another. But as fraud cases are on the rise for Amazon, and with various injuries being too damaging to ignore, courts are starting to question the justification of Amazon’s protection.
What do you think? Should Amazon be held accountable for every knockoff product listed? Or is that like buying knockoff items at a flea market and then suing the town? And if Amazon shuts down Seller Central, what would that mean for small businesses? Either way, knockoff products are illegal based on intellectual property laws. So, hopefully the Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit starts to make some waves in the e-commerce world.
Until next time, I’m Francine D. Ward, intellectual property attorney, encouraging you to watch out for knockoffs. Not only are they dangerous and cheaply made – they’re also illegal.
Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker
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