30 April 2020TrademarksRory O'Neill

Amazon says US govt has ‘personal vendetta’ after USTR report

Amazon has accused the US government of pursuing a “personal vendetta”, after it was included in a list of “notorious markets” for counterfeit goods.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) named several of Amazon’s international domains in the watchlist, citing complaints from rights owners.

In the  2019 Review of Notorious Markets, USTR, which advises the government on trade policy, said it had heard reports of high levels of counterfeits on Amazon’s international platforms, specifically in Canada, France, India, Germany, and the UK.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company “strongly disagrees” with USTR’s assessment, adding: “This purely political act is another example of the administration using the US government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon.”

Amazon had previously  acknowledged the risk of counterfeits on its platform in an annual investors’ report last year. The e-commerce company has since launched the  Project Zero initiative in a bid to eliminate the problem.

But rights holders complained to USTR that Amazon often displayed “misleading” seller information, and that the e-commerce company did not sufficiently vet sellers on the platform, meaning “anyone can become a seller on Amazon with too much ease”.

They also described Amazon’s process for removing counterfeit goods as “lengthy and burdensome, even for right holders that enrol in Amazon’s brand protection programs”.

The listing of Amazon was based partly on a submission from the American Apparel & Footwear Association, a trade group representing more than 1,000 fashion, retail, and manufacturing brands.

According to the USTR report, Amazon must step up its efforts on anti-counterfeiting and be “more responsive” to complaints from rights holders.

Amazon said that it makes “significant investments in proactive technologies and processes to detect and stop bad actors and potentially counterfeit products from being sold in our stores”.

Many of the online markets named in the report were included based on piracy concerts, including film and TV streaming sites, pirate research website Sci-Hub, and stream-ripping sites like Flyvto.

Amazon and Chinese platforms DHGate and Taobao were among the most notable e-commerce sites to be included, alongside Indonesia’s Bulakapak and Singapore’s Carousell.

Also included was Chinese “social commerce” app Pinduoduo, named on the watchlist for the  first time last year.

The platform has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2015, raising $1.1 billion in private funding just last month. It allows users to buy as groups using social media tools like Wechat.

USTR noted several measures taken by Pinduoduo since its inclusion in last year’s report, such as the release of an English language version of its IP Protection portal.

But it was still “premature” to gauge the full impact of these measures, USTR said, given the reported prevalence of counterfeits on the platform. Pinduoduo still also needs a “clear and transparent” IP enforcement policy to avoid inclusion on the list, USTR said.

USTR also published its  annual Special 301 report, including the “Priority Watch List” of trading partners presenting the most serious IP concerns for the US, such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories sent like this straight to your inbox.

Today’s top stories

SkyKick ruling the 'end of computer software'

PTAB launches programme to develop next-gen attorneys

CJEU clarifies TM ‘course of trade’ in counterfeit case

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

16 December 2020   Online commerce platforms Alibaba, Amazon, eBay have avoided inclusion on the European Commission’s 2020 watch list of counterfeiting and piracy hotspots, despite a number of nominations from stakeholders.
18 January 2021   The US Trade Representative has turned its attention to e-commerce and internet platforms in its latest Notorious Markets report on counterfeit goods.
28 April 2022   The Office of the US Trade Representatives has placed Russia on its priority watch list alongside China and India in its annual global IP report, and has suspended its review of war-torn Ukraine.