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E-commerce retailers, government sharpen focus to combat counterfeit goods


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E-commerce retailers, government sharpen focus to combat counterfeit goods

Online shopping has never been more popular and counterfeit goods have never been a bigger problem.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will host a webinar Oct. 14 that focuses on the growing problem of counterfeit goods promoted on e-commerce platforms and opportunities for the public and private sector to reduce fraud.

The event, titled "A Data-Driven Approach to Combatting Counterfeit Goods in E-Commerce," will feature a discussion with panelists including Matthew Allen, director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center; Christa Brzozowski, senior manager of public policy at Inc. and Sara Decker, director of government affairs for Walmart Inc.

Counterfeit issues have coincided with an acceleration of online usage during the pandemic as both digital and brick-and-mortar retailers bolstered their e-commerce channels, said Daniel Castro, vice president with ITIF.

"We're buying more online, we're selling more online and counterfeiters are going to take advantage of it," Castro said. "As we do more and more e-commerce, these issues around counterfeiting and trust and safety will continue to come up."

Several efforts are underway by both the federal and private sector to address the proliferation of counterfeit goods sold online with both data and other measures to crack down on bad actors.

Homeland Security Investigations, the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in April 2020 launched Operation Stolen Promise to address growing COVID-19-related fraud. The operation involved several e-commerce retailers including Amazon, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and eBay Inc. that worked with the IPR Center to share data such as keywords and search terms that allowed the government and private sector to enhance targeting for potential criminal activity.

Amazon and Walmart also last year agreed to submit quarterly data to the IPR Center about individuals and companies who were removed from their platforms for alleged sales of counterfeit goods. That data is then shared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enhance their targeting efforts.

Legislation is also being considered by Congress. The bipartisan SHOP SAFE Act, backed by lawmakers including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., seeks to establish trademark liability for online marketplace platforms when a third party sells a counterfeit product and to incentivize online platforms to establish best practices such as vetting sellers.

An Amazon spokesperson said in an email statement that the company has a global commitment to brand protection and stopping counterfeits.

"We recognize that the intent of the SHOP SAFE Act is to ensure that consumers are protected from counterfeit products and we look forward to working with Congress to achieve that goal," the Amazon spokesperson said.

Amazon has launched extensive anti-counterfeit efforts, including the establishment of a counterfeit crimes unit to build and refer cases to law enforcement and undertake independent investigations or joint investigations with brands.

Walmart did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking comment, but sellers on its marketplace are prohibited from selling counterfeit, illegal, stolen or fraudulent products, or any products that infringe on third-party intellectual property rights.


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Oct. 14 ITIF will host a webinar from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. titled "A Data-Driven Approach to Combatting Counterfeit Goods in E-Commerce."
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