The U.S. Trade Representative’s office is responding to the global movement of counterfeits by targeting even legitimate companies that it says may help facilitate their sales.
In a report Wednesday, the office signaled it is looking at the role of e-commerce platforms, including certain foreign web sites of Amazon, such as amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk, amazon.de, amazon.fr and amazon.in.
“Over the last year, USTR has secured strong and enforceable obligations on intellectual property in our historic agreements with China, Canada and Mexico,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in the statement.
Amazon pushed back, calling the report’s references to its web sites a “purely political act” motivated by what it claimed was the administration’s “personal vendetta against Amazon,” according to a statement Wednesday by a company representative.
“We strongly disagree with the characterization of Amazon in this USTR report,” the representative said. “Amazon makes significant investments in proactive technologies and processes to detect and stop bad actors and potentially counterfeit products from being sold in our stores.”
Amazon claimed that it has put resources and manpower into keeping counterfeits off its web sites, including by investing more than $500 million toward such efforts in 2019. The company also said that it has more than 8,000 employees “protecting our store from fraud and abuse” and that it has thwarted more than 2.5 million “suspected bad actors” from opening Amazon selling accounts. The company said it is also working with brands to prevent the sale of counterfeits.
“More than 99.9 percent of pages viewed by customers on Amazon have never had a report of counterfeit, and this is a testament to our continued innovation, collaboration and commitment to fighting counterfeit,” an Amazon representative said in a statement.
The USTR’s office said broadly that counterfeits account for roughly 2.5 percent of global imports, which it estimated amounted to about half a trillion dollars.
The office said it is responding in part to a White House memo issued last April on the trafficking of counterfeits, and that it believes e-commerce platforms should take a more robust role in preventing the sale of counterfeits on their web sites.
The office also said that it would plan on “seeking more information regarding e-commerce platforms, including those based in the United States, in future reports.”
Apparel retailers said Wednesday that the USTR’s report reflected their own submissions to the office on these issues.
“Special thanks to USTR Ambassador Lighthizer and his team, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and supporting agencies for incorporating AAFA’s input into these important reports,” said Steve Lamar, president and chief executive officer of the industry group American Apparel & Footwear Association.
“AAFA steadfastly advocates for our members’ intellectual property — such as their brands, their designs, and their innovations — and is pleased the USTR provides a regular forum for us to share and air our perspectives on foreign country practices as well as those of physical and online marketplaces,” he said.