Can artificial intelligence keep counterfeit goods off the web?

Can artificial intelligence keep counterfeit goods off the web?

Max Smolaks

September 24, 2019

5 Min Read

by Jay McCarthy, Incopro 24 September 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a source of wild speculation, sometimes verging on panic. If you don’t believe me, try typing ‘Will AI’ into Google and see the list of recommended search results littered with negative connotations.

Will AI replace programmers? Will AI take my job? WillAI destroy humanity?

While the answer to all of these questions is hopefullynot, a lot of the criticism and focus on AI has so far revolved around if itwill one day replace humans rather than how it is taking away a lot of themundane and soul-crushing tasks that slow us down and make us grumpy.

One area where a bit of AI goes a long way is counterfeits– more specifically, to help keep them off the Internet, thus preventinginnocent buyers from getting ripped off.

Ecommerce
a breeding ground for counterfeits

The ‘supply and demand’ ecommerce model combined with theglobal availability of the Internet has made the sale of counterfeits easier andmore profitable than ever.

Legitimate webpages, items and product details areeasily replicable, and the sheer scale of the ecommerce market on the Internet alongwith endless domain names being set up every day makes it almost impossible fora person to manually check every single product and website.

As a result, the number of counterfeits appearingonline has grown to an amount where manual searches have become increasingly futile.

And, as manufacturing methods improve and fakes becomemore convincing, they’ll eventually reach a stage where experts and the brandsthat made the original product will struggle to tell the difference betweenwhat’s real and what’s not.

Does Amazon have a counterfeit problem?

For the first time in its annual report, Amazonwarned investors this year about the risk of counterfeits on its online platform.

Under the ‘risk factors’ section of the report, Amazonsaid: “We also may be unable to prevent sellers in our stores or through otherstores from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods, sellinggoods in an unlawful or unethical manner, violating the proprietary rights ofothers, or otherwise violating our policies.”

However, Amazon’s recent work against counterfeits,including its Brand Registry programme, has proven tobe highly ineffective, and the majority of what they’re claiming seems to bepurely lip service.

Many brands are also still hesitant to let themarketplaces police themselves, and many smaller manufacturers can’t providethe staffing required to monitor the site for fakes on Amazon’s behalf –highlighting another possible use case for AI.

This should be a wake-up call to everyone. If one ofthe most powerful companies in the world has admitted that they have a problem,and are pessimistic about their current approach, perhaps it’s time to re-thinkthe problem. Is this a place where AI can be used?

Can
AI help catch counterfeits?

On the face of it, AI certainly looks promising.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, along with 20 other internationalbrands, created the ‘BigData Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance’ in 2017 – an initiative whichuses AI to detect tell-tale flaws in product listings and customer reviews.

According to The Drum, early results using the technology showed a 25 percent decline in take-down requests and has closed down 230,000 IP-infringing stores on its sister website, Taobao.

And, despite admitting to a counterfeit problem,Amazon this year announcedits Project Zero initiative to help combat the issue. The programme will use acombination of machine learning, a self-service tool and product serialisationcodes to help brand owners fight back.

Countering
the counterfeiters

While the war over counterfeits may never be over,it’s possible for enterprises and brands to gain the upper hand. By utilisingintelligent anti-counterfeit systems, it is possible to thwart fakes at scale.

But it won’t work without the co-operation andparticipation of brand owners as well as the marketplaces that host them.

That’s why it’s vital for any company with products,content, brands or other assets that can be counterfeited to explore theoptions for how to best use AI to counter the counterfeiters.

AI technology can be specifically tailored to autonomously detect masses of low-cost, high-volume counterfeit goods. By analysing materials, colours, packaging and other key attributes to spot fakes, AI helps keep fakes off the web, thus protecting consumers and businesses from the scammers that want to rip them off.

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