Amazon Patents Blockchain Product Authenticator to Fight Counterfeiting

June 09, 2020

Editor’s note: Just as Amazon seeks to use blockchain to fight counterfeiting, US Customs and Border Protection should consider using blockchain to fight customs fraud (counterfeiting, country of origin lying, etc). 

The world’s largest e-commerce retailer has received patent approval for its latest solution in a long line of weapons for fighting counterfeit items on its site.

[Hugo Brit | June 8, 2020 | Thomas Net]

Amazon has experienced an incredible growth story, but the online marketplace has a major vulnerability: public trust.

Amazon currently holds the enviable position of the second-most trusted brand in the United States (USPS ranks #1 in the list), but with e-commerce sites full of counterfeit products, this position of trust runs the risk of rapid erosion.

PwC’s Future of Customer Experience survey found that nearly one-fifth of U.S. customers will walk away from a brand after one bad experience, while 59% will stop interacting forever after several bad experiences. In other words, having an experience like ordering a pair of U.S.-made sneakers on Amazon and receiving a counterfeit product once might be forgivable, but if it happens three or four times a customer is likely to stop using Amazon.

Amazon knows this, which is one of the reasons it filed a patent for a distributed ledger certification system that will track the authenticity of products as they move through the end-to-end supply chain. The patent is the most recent in a series of initiatives launched by Amazon to fight counterfeiting, which has involved legal action against counterfeiters, sharing information with law enforcement, and devoting $400 million in personnel and tools built on machine learning and data science, including:

  • Project Zero: Automated protections powered by machine learning that scan over 5 billion daily listing update attempts to look for suspected counterfeits. Project Zero also enables registered brands to take down counterfeit listings without appealing to Amazon.
  • Brand Registry: A system that identifies brand owners on Amazon to protect IP.
  • Transparency: A product serialization service that identifies individual units with a QR-code-like system.
  • Intellectual Property Accelerator: A program that helps SMEs attain IP rights faster.
  • Utility Patent Neutral Evaluation: A program that helps combat patent infringement without going through an expensive legal process.

What Is the Distributed Ledger Certification System?

Amazon’s patent describes a product tracking solution that will ensure the authenticity of items sold on the site.

The new interface will serve two apparent purposes, enabling:

  • Sellers to map their global supply chains
  • End-users to track the position of their items along the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to delivery

The system will allow registered participants in the supply chain (manufacturers, logistics companies, and end-users) to add events to the ledger. Rules could be applied at various stages such as confirming authenticity or product quality before the item can continue on its journey. The result is an open framework that draws product provenance from various information silos, which is then presented to the consumer in an easy-to-read format. The ledger could also be a valuable tool in the second-hand market.

Once written, the data cannot be edited.

How Will This Differ from Traditional Order Tracking?

A typical tracking solution will only map the portion of a supply chain that is visible to its developer. For example, a customer who orders an item from an online store is able to track its journey from the store to their home but will have no visibility into its movements before that point.

The patent’s author explains why this system is unsuitable within the fragmented context of modern supply chains, noting, “The increasingly distributed and modularized physical supply chain, where each entity works with multiple customer-facing channels, has led to limited adoption of these siloed tools. The features described break this mold by building a lower-level set of open standards and services that provide a trustworthy framework for participants to use.”

Establishing Digital Trust

The word trust is used several times throughout the document. To quote the patent’s author, Amazon’s distributed ledger certification is a concept that will infuse “digital trust from the first mile of an item’s supply chain to the last.” 

It is unclear if Amazon is already making use of this technology.

Read the original article here.

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