Amazon Patent Infringement


Amazon Patent Infringement

This page concerns patent infringement on Amazon.  If you have a copyright issue, please see our amazon copyright infringement page.  If you have a trademark issue, please see our amazon trademark infringement page. 

With online marketplaces such as Amazon growing at exponential rates, patent violations have become more common.  In fact, infringement has become such an problem that the company created a brand registry just to fight back against wrongful use of trademarks. If you’re a seller on the marketplace or a patent holder whose product is being sold on the site, we can assist.

Amazon Patent Infringement Policy

Amazon typically acts as a third-party to sellers on its marketplace. Although the website may collect payment and even fulfill the order, they typically aren’t themselves the seller. Even with this being the case, they have to take certain active measures to ensure they’re not held accountable for indirect patent infringement.

Of course, patent violations can be difficult to police on Amazon.  The website jumped from a 23 percent household penetration to 51 percent in less than three years. Its user base is growing every day, so the company relies on its users along with a heavy focus on automation to stop patent theft.

Inventions are fully protected once the patent registration is approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Even after this point, though, it still falls on the patent owner to defend their rights. This reality holds true on the Amazon platform as well. It’s up to the individual to recognize instances of infringement and take action.

What is Patent Infringement?

Amazon has a strict policy against patent infringement, and users who engage in this behavior can have their listings removed or accounts deleted. Before filing a report or submitting an appeal, though, it’s necessary to have an understanding of what these violations actually entail. The most important thing to recognize is that, unlike trademark and copyright protections, your patent must be filed with the USPTO to be protected.

Before you can obtain a patent, however, you need to meet certain requirements. To start, you cannot simply patent an idea. It must be embodied in a process, machine, manufactured item, chemical composition or even a new plant variety. It must also meet the following conditions:

  • Patentable subject matter
  • Must be a novel invention
  • Must be useful or have utility
  • Cannot be an obvious invention

Once an item meets these requirements and is granted a patent by the USPTO, it receives a variety of protections and allows IP owners to undertake patent litigation in federal court. For infringement to occur, though, one of these exclusive rights of the patent holder must be violated:

  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Selling
  • Using
  • Importing

A utility patent holder maintains exclusive rights over all these actions for a period of 20 years. There are thousands of patent lawsuits filed in U.S. courts every year. In fact, there’s been an increasing trend of these cases over the past decade.

Amazon Patent Infringement Cases

There have been a few high-profile patent infringement cases related to Amazon.  Even Amazon itself isn’t immune to claims of patent infringement. While the company is typically protected from liability when third-party sellers advertise counterfeit products, Williams-Sonoma filed a lawsuit against Amazon for alleged direct violation of its patents.  In addition to claiming that Amazon was facilitating counterfeit sales, Williams-Sonoma also stated that Amazon’s own product line, “Rivet,” had infringed patents related to furniture designs.

Am I Committing Patent Infringement on Amazon?

It’s worth noting that every single case of potential patent infringement on Amazon is different. Whether you’re accused of patent infringement or believe your patent is being violated, there’s no single rule that will apply to each situation. The following issues, however, are some of the most common.

Exclusive Distribution Agreements

An exclusive distribution contract is an agreement that allows only a single distributor can sell an item in a specific marketplace. While unauthorized sellers may be selling the items as well, this isn’t typically an patent issue. Because of this, Amazon will not remove these listings.

First Sale Doctrine

It would seem that the exclusive right to sell an item would prevent everyday consumers from reselling purchases they’ve made. This isn’t the case thanks to the First Sale Doctrine. If you buy a patented item, you usually gain the right to resell that specific item.

Reselling Chinese Items

There has been a huge influx of budding entrepreneurs who purchase low-cost items in bulk and then resell them at a markup. This is an accepted and legal practice, but you may run into issues if your items are coming from China.

The country has major intellectual property issues, and items they’re selling may be infringing upon patents. If you in turn sell these items – even though you didn’t create them – you are likely committing patent infringement. Amazon will remove these listings and you could face legal consequences.

Amazon Patent Cease and Desist Letters

When a person claiming patent rights over an Amazon item finds a listing they feel is violating their rights, there are a few ways to handle the situation. A typical first step is a patent cease and desist letter. These letters serve a few purposes. The most important, however, is letting an infringing party know you’re ready to defend your patent rights. Within the letter, it’s necessary to inform them that their actions constitute infringement. The letter should demand that they stop selling the product (cease) and never sell it again (desist).

The letter should include following information:

  • Patent information (patent number, date of registration, etc.).
  • The action you’re requesting they put an end to.
  • Circumstances, dates and listings that are in violation.
  • Demand that actions be immediately ceased.
  • Deadline for response to cease and desist letter.

A cease and desist letter will ensure there’s a paper trail should patent litigation become necessary.  If you have an Amazon patent infringement issue, we strongly advise that you have an attorney assist you.  First, you should do your due diligence to be sure that in fact an infringement has occurred.  Secondly, a cease and desist letter, or a response to a cease and desist letter, is taken much more seriously when it comes from an aggressive patent litigation law firm.

Reporting an Amazon Patent Infringement

In addition to sending a cease and desist letter, we also report the patent infringement directly to Amazon.  In order to avoid exposure to litigation, Amazon must act reasonably in removing infringing items. We typically include the following information:

  • Patent number
  • ASIN numbers or product URL
  • Facts, law and evidence supporting the infringement claim

Before submitting all this information, you’ll have to attest to the fact that everything you’ve claimed is true to the best of your knowledge. This is done under the penalty of perjury. Once Amazon removes the listing, the seller will be notified of the decision.

Responding to an Amazon Patent Infringement Claim

If your product listing has been removed from Amazon due to an infringement claim against you, we can assist.  In this instance we will contact the complaining party to demand that the complaint be withdrawn.  Again, we will cite all facts, law and evidence that support non-infringement.  We will also contact Amazon to demand that the listing immediately be restored.   Unfortunately, Amazon is notoriously slow in responding to infringement complaints.  However, when done professionally with an attorney, fast action is much more likely.

Frivolous Amazon Patent Infringement Claims

Of course, not every claim of patent infringement on Amazon is legitimate. Thanks to a simple removal process, some dishonest entrepreneurs target their competition with claims of infringement. Although Amazon strives to ensure your rights are protected, the sheer number of claims typically prevents fast and thorough analysis.

If you know you’re not infringing a patent, we can fight back. We will immediately demand that Amazon restore the listing and we will send a cease and desist letter to the complainant. Since infringers and those making false claims will usually cease their activities once they realize the potential ramifications – which could include injunctions, court costs and monetary damages – cease and desist letters tend to get fast action.  If necessary, we can also file a patent infringement lawsuit.

Mandour & Associates – Amazon Patent Infringement Attorneys

If you have a patent infringement issue on Amazon, contact us today.  We have handled numerous patent infringement matters on Amazon have litigated Amazon patent infringement cases in federal court.  Regardless of whether someone is infringing your rights, or a claim has been made against you, we can assist.

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