By Joseph Diorio and Monica Riva Talley

Why do most consumers prefer to purchase expensive goods in person? Do they value the trust factor of seeing and knowing what they are buying? Do they need to feel confident that the item is worth the price? As the pandemic has accelerated the migration to online commerce, some online marketplaces are taking steps to ensure consumers feel as confident shopping online as they do in brick-and-mortar stores.

Some savvy consumers may view this credibility gap as an uphill battle, as online marketplaces are notoriously flush with counterfeit goods. To help bolster consumer confidence in online platforms in general, Google updated its legal troubleshooting form this past June to include a new but highly-requested feature – the takedown of counterfeit goods from Google’s search results. In the past, consumers have been able to submit requests to remove GoogleAds related to counterfeit goods, but were unable to remove the webpages of the counterfeit goods from populating the search results.

Since its introduction five months ago, Google has successfully removed 933 webpages from Google search results and marketplaces with this new feature. Although this number may seem underwhelming at first glance, the takedown process is arduous. The current process requires a trademark owner to manually submit a complaint under Google’s Merchant Center, which is then manually reviewed by Google to determine its legitimacy. Submitting a complaint requires the user to identify that they are the owner of a registered trademark and that the alleged webpage is selling counterfeit goods that infringe on their asserted trademark. If successful, Google will remove the webpage from populating its search results and send a copy of the legal notice to the Lumen project for transparency.

Google’s new takedown mechanism is another tool that brands can wield in the fight against online counterfeiters. Counterfeiting is now the largest criminal enterprise in the world, even surpassing drugs and human trafficking. Counterfeiting has a significant impact on businesses – not only from the perspective of lost sales, estimated to be roughly $29 billion per year, but also the loss of more than 750,000 jobs. From a brand value perspective, as more counterfeit products flood the market, brands begin to struggle to compete with cheaper versions of their “own” products – particularly as reflected in Google search results – and can be forced to change their own price structure. For all of these reasons, brands should consider incorporating Google’s reporting feature into their regular online counterfeit monitoring and takedown routine.

This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of MarkIt to Market. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.