Project Zero & Amazon Transparency

UPDATED March 9, 2020.
As these programs have exited Beta testing, they have become more robust. This article has been updated to reflect the most recent features & prices.

Project Zero & Transparency are two services that work hand-in-hand under the Amazon Brand Registry umbrella. In unison, these 2 services help you mitigate third part offers and remove counterfeit listings. This helps create a clean channel, and provide better content and listing control for brand owners.

Project Zero

Let’s start with Project Zero. This program is a direct extension of Brand Registry. Previously invite only, you can now apply to join. There used to be a wait period, but now that the Beta has completed, turn around is typically 1 week.

Project Zero is a self-service tool that allows you to both report & remove counterfeit listings. Amazon allows you to identify listings & sellers via ASIN, Brand, and Order Number. This is very helpful, as a mystery buy on a legitimate ASIN is a cause for concern, but sellers may worry how to report the order/seller without taking down the ASIN entirely. It is also useful for sellers who are trying to “spoof” your brand name.

How Does Project Zero Work?

This is a free feature available to Brand Registered sellers & vendors. You must apply for it separately & complete a training module after enrollment.

Project Zero allows you to report an ASIN or just an offer. This is very useful, as sometimes it’s just 1 seller causing problems on an otherwise legitimate listing. However, we have also seen ASINs that are completely fraudulent.

Project Zero will cover any trademark you have registered with rand Registry. If you have multiple trademarks, you will be asked to select the correct one when reporting an ASIN or offer. Be careful when doing this, so you don’t make a false report. It is also worth reminding you that Amazon’s Brand Registry & related tools will not cover supplemental trademarks; your trademark must be in the primary registrar.

What if I Made a Mistake Reporting an ASIN or Offer?

If you accidentally report an ASIN or offer, you can retract a violation. This is done through your Brand Registry submission history.

What are Project Zero’s Restrictions?

Project Zero is designed only to remove counterfeit goods. It’s purpose is not intended for infringement or unauthorized sales of otherwise legitimate product. If you have an infringement issue, you need to use the report a violation tool in your Brand Registry account. Improper use of the tool can result in your enrollment being revoked.

Test buys are encouraged, but not required, to report a counterfeit ASIN or offer. You need to make sure you properly select ASIN or offer when reporting a counterfeit product, otherwise Amazon will count it as a misuse of the tool.

You are not supposed to share your tool access with others. You can add authorized users, who will have their own access to the tool under the brand(s) you grant access to. You can also only use the tool to report counterfeit items for the brand(s) you have enrolled.

If an ASIN or offer that you have previously reported gets reinstated, you need to escalate a previous submission instead of using the tool again.

How Can I be Sure I am Properly Reporting an ASIN or Offer?

The training module will walk you through what is considered counterfeit vs infringement vs unathorized sales channels. Remember that infringement must be reported using the Report a Violation tool, and unauthorized sales channels must be managed internally with your MAP & Distribution policies. However, this quick check list will help you identify counterfeit product that can be reported through Project Zero:

  • Does the listing or offer improperly use my trademark?
  • Is it a total or partial reproduction of my trademark?
  • Is my trademark or a reproduction used on the product, packaging, or product detail page to imply it is genuine?

Some things that don’t count as counterfeit include:

  • Similar looking items sold on a different product detail page
  • Intellectual property rights infringement
  • Unauthorized reselling of legitimate product

Transparency

Amazon Transparency is an attempt at a more universal solution, which if it ever gets to that point will be rather cool. In the meantime, it works in conjunction with Brand Registry & Project Zero to help protect your brand integrity.

The idea behind Transparency is that each unit you sell gets a unique, non-serialized QR code. These codes must be purchased from Transparency, who keeps a record of each unique code, and therefore cannot be duplicated.

How Does Transparency Work?

Unlike Project Zero, Transparency is a paid for program. You pay per label, and this can quickly add up. However, the more labels your purchase, the more you save. Prices vary between $0.05-$0.01, based on the quantity.

What Does Verification Actually Do?

The ability to scan Transparency codes for authenticity verification serves a couple different purposes. For FBA sellers and vendors, Amazon will check units for enrolled products for the QR code. Their warehouse systems allows for the identification of fake QR codes as well, since each code is unique and recorded. If not present, or a duplicate of an already received code, the product is no longer sellable and will be investigated. This is a means to keep inauthentic product off the marketplace.

Merchant-fulfilled products can also be enrolled, and the sellers are required to provide Transparency label information to Amazon for every order they ship out. Similar to the FBA measures, the inability to enter this information for en enrolled product (identified by GTIN), will result in a counterfeit investigation.

The other benefit is for the customer. They can scan the code and be assured they have received is authentic. Not only that, you have the ability to provide unit-level information such as production location & date, lot number, expiration dates, ingredients, and more. As this is a universal program, these benefits apply to every unit you produce on all your sales channels.

What are Transparency’s Requirements?

The requirements to participate are few:

  1. Be able to prove brand ownership
    • Enrolling in Brand Registry covers this for you
  2. Have Global Trade Identification Numbers (GTIN)
    • Such as UPC or EAN
  3. The ability to label all your units with unique labels

It’s simple. You can enroll some or all of your products. Once identified by GTIN, all sellers or vendors for the enrolled products must comply by having Transparency codes on their units. As non-brand owners cannot apply for this program, they would only have Transparency labels on their units if purchased through legitimate means (through you directly, a distributor, or an authorized sales channel).

It is worth noting, this is not a retroactive program. Inventory already in FBA prior to registration, will still be considered sellable. This is to your advantage, as other wise you would be forced to remove your inventory from FBA and risk going out of stock, or having to self fulfill, while you wait for you’re newly labeled units to be received. We mentions this for two main reasons: so you don’t worry about your existing inventory, ad so you know it will take some time for counterfeit offers to fall off.

What if I Only Want to Label my Amazon Inventory?

While it is certainly possible to follow this practice, it violates the policy. Sellers have been removed from participating in Transparency due to violating it’s terms.

It is understandable that brand registered sellers & vendors don’t want 3P sellers to acquire their inventory through other means and sell on platforms without approval. However, the core idea behind Transparency is to ensure consumers are receiving authentic products. This program is not designed as a channel management solution, in place or in cooperation with MAP & Distribution policies.

By only labeling your Amazon inventory, customers who purchase your products through other legitimate channels are not guaranteed authentic product. If Transparency becomes the universal program Amazon dreams of it becoming, this is very problematic.

Caiti Inc

Caiti Inc is the Analytics Lead at Digital Brandworks, a digital consultancy that provides customized solutions for improving marketplace performance on Amazon and beyond.

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