Bad actors attempted to evade Amazon’s controls by listing generic products while purposefully promoting counterfeits on social media channels.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and its Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) today announced the filing of two new lawsuits against Kamryn Russell, Ashley Hawat, and their co-conspirators who knowingly attempted to evade Amazon’s brand protection systems in an effort to promote, advertise, and facilitate the sale of counterfeit luxury fashion goods such as jewelry, handbags, and accessories.
Amazon works across the globe to fight counterfeiters, filing joint lawsuits with brands to eliminate the sale of counterfeits not only in Amazon's store but across the supply chain. Through its partnership with brands of all sizes, Amazon’s CCU constantly uncovers new approaches counterfeiters take to try to deceive customers and evade the law. The CCU uses that intelligence to equip law enforcement to pursue bad actors. In 2022, the CCU sued or referred for investigation over 1,300 criminals in the U.S., UK, EU, and China.
In this case, both Russell and Hawat attempted to use a “hidden links” scheme in which they posted links on their social media pages that directed their followers to seemingly generic product listing pages in the Amazon store. Russell and Hawat’s co-conspirators disguised the infringing nature of the products they were selling in order to avoid detection by Amazon and the brand, often by blurring the brand’s logo. Russell and Hawat’s social media posts then made it clear to their followers that if they purchased these seemingly non-infringing and non-branded products, they would actually receive counterfeit luxury products. These bad actors also urged their followers to buy these products before Amazon could take down the listings.
In social media posts from Hawat, she explicitly acknowledges Amazon’s efforts to remove the infringing products and demonstrates her awareness of the illicit nature of the hidden links scheme. In the post she writes in reference to a luxury beach bag, “[Amazon] will be taking down so quickly!! Ordering this now!!” In a similar post where Hawat lists multiple counterfeit items she was promoting, she notes “& that’s really it for Amazon! Links get taken down so fast! So far that’s all that’s back up!”
When Russell or Hawat’s followers used the posted links to purchase the counterfeit products, Russell and Hawat received a commission for that sale. Russell and Hawat not only attempted to profit off of the sale of fake goods that could damage the reputations of the multiple luxury brands they counterfeited, but their actions also negatively impact the thousands of legitimate content creators who have cultivated strong communities built upon trust.
Amazon strongly supports legitimate content creators who strive to help their followers discover new products and experiences, and the company will continue to pursue the small number of bad actors who would attempt to illicitly gain influence and profit by knowingly evading Amazon’s controls and promoting counterfeit products.
“These bad actors knew exactly what they were doing when they attempted to evade Amazon’s brand protection systems to sell counterfeit products that clearly infringed on brands’ intellectual property rights,” said Kebharu Smith, director of Amazon’s CCU. “Content creators serve an important role for consumers around the globe, and these lawsuits not only seek to protect Amazon and the affected brands, but also seek to hold accountable those who diminish the role of legitimate content creators.”
These lawsuits follow similar actions taken by the CCU, including a lawsuit against other bad actors who attempted to implement a hidden links scheme through social media channels. The lawsuit resulted in a 2021 settlement, and Amazon donated settlement payments to the International Trademark Association’s Unreal Campaign that educates 14 to 23 year olds on the importance of intellectual property rights. Amazon’s CCU also filed a joint lawsuit in June 2022 with luxury brand Cartier against an individual and eight associated businesses for a similar hidden links scheme.
The lawsuits were filed in the federal U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington under case numbers:
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