Amazon and J.L. Childress file suit against alleged counterfeiters in ongoing fraud battle

Amazon HQ in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Amazon announced another lawsuit against alleged counterfeiters Thursday, part of the company’s ongoing strategy to portray a tough-on-fraud image.

Amazon and J.L. Childress, a seller of travel gear for parents, are suing 11 alleged counterfeiters, claiming the defendants sold fake J.L. Childress products on Amazon’s marketplace and conspired in coordination with each other. The companies claim that the knockoffs were sold on Amazon between 2018 to 2020. The companies filed the lawsuit over the summer, and it was unsealed this week.

The third-party sellers “infringed and misused J.L. Childress’ intellectual property” and “willfully deceived and harmed Amazon, J.L. Childress, and their customers, compromising the integrity of Amazon’s stores, and undermined the trust that customers place” in the two companies, according to the complaint. Amazon and J.L. Childress filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Seattle on Aug. 10.

That same day, Amazon announced the expansion of its “Project Zero” anti-counterfeit program to seven additional countries. Launched last year, Project Zero aims to eliminate counterfeiting on Amazon’s marketplace through product tracing and automation that detects suspicious listings.

In June, Amazon formed an internal “Counterfeit Crimes Unit” bringing together former federal prosecutors with investigators and data analysts in the fight against fraudulent listings. Other Amazon initiatives include Transparency, which promises to eliminate counterfeits for enrolled products. Amazon has also filed a series of other lawsuits over counterfeit goods in recent years, including joining Italian luxury fashion brand Valentino to pursue an alleged counterfeiter of the company’s Rockstud shoes.

Counterfeits were one topic raised in a report by the House Subcommittee on Antitrust released this month, following a widely watched hearing with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and other tech leaders.

The antitrust report accuses Amazon of allowing counterfeit goods to proliferate in its marketplace and using knockoffs as leverage to put pressure on third-party sellers. For example, PopSockets founder David Barnett testified that Amazon only cracked down on counterfeits after the seller agreed to purchase marketing services, according to the report.

“Although it claims to take its counterfeit problem seriously, Amazon’s business model incentivizes it to do less, not more,” the report says. “Because Amazon’s profits increase with the number of sales on the platform, the company has an incentive to turn a blind eye to counterfeit products that contribute to its increased sales volume.”

Amazon defended its treatment of third-party sellers in response to the report, and Bezos outlined the company’s fight against counterfeits during the hearing.

Cristina Posa, director of Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit, reiterated that position in a statement Thursday: “We invest significant resources in proactively protecting our store, and in addition, we take aggressive action to hold bad actors accountable as we’ve done here,” she said.

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