Amazon Sellers Attorney
Amazon is continually updating is various rules and procedures for becoming and remaining a seller on the Amazon marketplace. We assist clients with all issues related to Amazon from filing a trademark application and brand registry, to amazon infringement issues.
Amazon Seller Account Suspended
Using or selling the intellectual property of others on Amazon can lead to your account being suspended or even banned. In many instances, you’ll receive a warning that certain listings have been removed rather than your account being banned immediately. If you receive multiple warnings or have several potentially infringing items for sale, however, your account could be deleted without warning.
If this occurs, it’s important not to panic. You should receive an email from Amazon, and while the initial “Your listings have been removed. Funds will not be transferred to you…” may seem scary, you will be provided with an option to appeal the decision within the body of the message. To do so, you’ll need to submit a plan of action. This must include:
- Proof of authenticity of infringing listings (e.g. invoices or order IDs).
- Steps you’ve taken to end infringement and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- Any additional information you find relevant.
- If you think the suspension was erroneous, include any supporting details.
Unfortunately, you’ll find the internet littered with forum posts from former sellers who had difficulty through this process. It’s hard to explain why Amazon makes it so difficult to reverse a suspension or relist an item that was inappropriately removed. Likely, though, it’s because they’d rather not face potential liability.
If your amazon account has been suspended, you should contact an Amazon seller’s lawyer right away.
Amazon Trademark Infringement
A trademark is typically a word, design, or slogan that serves to identify the source of a particular good or service. Popular trademarks range from the Apple Logo to the green color used on John Deere tractors. Trademark infringement on Amazon can occur when another seller misuses your trademark in an effort to sell their own products.
The most obvious example of an infringement on Amazon comes when someone sells a counterfeit product featuring a trademark they have no rights over. This could also occur if a generic item is placed for sale and includes a trademarked name or an inappropriate Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN).
Even if a seller is only using a registered trademark to garner additional search results – and makes it clear that they’re not selling the actual trademarked item – it’s still not allowed on the platform. This is due to a likelihood of confusion.
Please see our Amazon trademark infringement page for more information.
Amazon Patent Infringement
Patent infringement is one of the biggest issues facing the Amazon Marketplace today. Even the White House has spoken out and insisted the platform get the problem under control. Patents grant exclusive rights to their owners over an invention. Unfortunately, infringers often take advantage of the public nature of these inventions.
Many Amazon sellers have found their listings removed and accounts suspended over patent infringement issues. In many cases, they weren’t even aware they were engaged in the act. This is often due to foreign producers violating a patent holder’s IP rights and creating knockoff products for wholesale. This becomes a serious issue for resellers.
When entrepreneurial Americans purchase low-priced goods from overseas, they always face the risk that they could be buying items that infringe upon a patent. In these instances, the unwitting infringers can be left with huge inventories of counterfeit items that they cannot resell.
This problem no doubt contributes to the thousands of patent infringement cases heard in courts every year. And with patent applications typically increasing yearly, this intellectual property issue shows no sign of stopping.
Please see our Amazon patent infringement page for more information.
Amazon Copyright Infringement
Registering a copyright provides protection over original works of art. These can include text, graphics, artwork, computer programs, musical compositions, and more. The most obvious instances of copyright infringement on Amazon occur when sellers try to profit from counterfeit artwork or pirated digital media.
It’s worth noting that an original work doesn’t have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to secure protection. Registering simply provides additions protections – such as the ability to bring a lawsuit in federal court.
It should also be noted that product violations aren’t the only issues that could result in copyright infringement on Amazon. If you were to upload your own photos or create original text to place on a listing, other sellers may be in violation of IP laws by using the content on their own pages.
By creating a detail page, however, the rights holder essentially grants other sellers permission to utilize the content for their own listings. This makes copyright issues a complex area in the Amazon Marketplace.
Please see our Amazon copyright infringement page for more information.
Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon has expanded in leaps and bounds over the years. The Amazon prime service alone went from a household penetration of 23 percent to 51 percent – more than half of American households – in just three years. The platform is becoming more popular for consumers and sellers alike, so the likelihood of intellectual property infringement is going up.
In an effort to combat this problem, Amazon started allowing brands to register themselves on the platform. The Amazon Brand Registry hosts over 60,000 brands. This tool is geared towards preventing instances of trademark infringement on the site. And while monitoring inappropriate use of brand marks may be the focus, it can also help you identify instances of patent abuse.
Once signed up on the registry, the brand gains access to proprietary tools that include in-depth text and image searching capabilities. This allows for the quick identification of any infringing listings. Additionally, there are several other powerful tools at a brand’s disposal:
- Ability to search via keyword and ASIN.
- Guided workflow that makes infringement reports simple.
- Report analysis allows for predictive automation.
- Recognition of items being shipped from countries where you have no presence.
- Identification of listings using your brand name or logo inappropriately.
Signing up for the Amazon Brand Registry is optional, but it’s one of the best ways to protect intellectual property on the website. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure, and this often helps you avoid patent, copyright, or trademark litigation in the long run. Also, keep in mind that Amazon’s ability to protect your intellectual property increases as you provide more information about your brand and products.
Amazon Brand Gating
While the Brand Registry is a powerful tool in protecting intellectual property rights, Amazon Brand Gating takes IP protection to a whole new level. In essence, companies can have restrictions placed on their brand or listings to decrease the occurrence of counterfeit and infringing listings. This can sometimes hurt legitimate merchants, but it shows Amazon’s seriousness in fighting IP violations.
When a company utilizes the Brand Gating tool, they put limits on who can sell their merchandise. This only applies to items listed as “New.” The first sale doctrine still protects an individual’s right to sell an item they’ve previously purchased. Merchant’s who sell branded items as new for a brand that has been gated, however, have a few requirements to be a seller. You must:
- Provide copies of invoices showing items were purchased from the manufacturer.
- Provide evidence of written permission to sell products from the brand.
- Pay a fee for every brand being sold by merchant.
While this may seem like a punishment for third-party sellers, the fact remains that these individuals make up half of Amazon’s sales. In the end, however, brand gating is one of the most effective ways of stopping infringers from piggybacking on brands or ASINs.
Amazon Enhanced Brand Content
In 2016, Amazon introduced a premium feature known as Enhanced Brand Content. On the surface, it simply looks like a method of making a listing appear more aesthetically pleasing. It does this by allowing brand owners to personalize the product descriptions on their brand’s ASINs. This includes altering text placements, providing enhanced images, telling a brand story and even uploading videos.
All this improved content has proven to increase sales, listing traffic and conversion rates. While these are all great benefits, using Enhanced Brand Content can also help you avoid damage to your brand and loss of sales to infringing parties. This is because your enhanced content is more apt to catch the attention of consumers – instead of them being pulled away by prominent “similar item suggestions” that can result in a lost customer.
Unfortunately, those suggested items may be cheap knockoffs or even counterfeits. Enhanced Brand Content allows you to showcase your brand and let buyers know that imitators aren’t representative of your company. As with most seller tools, there are a few requirements before you can use this feature:
- You must be approved as Professional Seller.
- You must have a registered trademark.
- You must be accepted into Amazon’s Brand Registry.
- Emerging brand owners may qualify if using certain managed selling programs.
Keep in mind that, once approved, you can only add enhanced content to ASINs that Amazon has approved as part of your brand catalog. While making your brand stand out with enhanced content will decrease the likelihood of customers mistaking subpar products with yours, though, it doesn’t stop intellectual property violations.
On the Amazon Marketplace, you often have to engage in this process on your own.
Reporting Infringement on Amazon
While the numerous seller tools provided by Amazon can help detect trademark, patent and copyright infringement, it’s up to the intellectual property owner to deal with violations.
Amazon Brand Registry has a report a violation (RAV) tool. Those who aren’t registered, however, can still submit report an infringement. Depending on the type of intellectual property in question, Amazon will need varying information:
- Copyright infringement: Reports will need to include a brand name (if applicable) along with a written description or link to the copyrighted material.
- Trademark infringement: Reports must include brand name, trademark registration number (if applicable) and any additional pertinent information.
- Patent infringement: Reports must include a brand name and patent registration number.
In each of these cases, you’ll also need to provide the ASINs in question and your contact information. Additionally, a statement that your report is being made in good faith is required. Filing a report in bad faith is punishable under United States perjury laws and can lead to many other bad outcomes including account suspension, being banned from Amazon, and becoming the defendant in a lawsuit. For these and other reasons we strongly suggest that you contact an Amazon sellers attorney before taking any action.
Once a report is submitted, it will undergo Amazon review. In most cases, the company errs on the safe side and removes any listings that may violate intellectual property laws. This has created a situation where competitors will sometimes file false claims against each other simply to have their competition removed.
If you believe a trademark bully or other individual acting in bad faith has caused your listing to be removed or your account suspended, you should immediately contact an Amazon seller lawyer.
Amazon Cease and Desist Letter
Reporting infringing items and account suspensions are no doubt one way to handing instances of intellectual property infringement on Amazon. However, we always recommend that a cease and desist letter be sent any time there is an infringement. The overarching goal of sending this message is to create an evidentiary chain showing that the infringer knew of the issue. If you end up in court later, this could result in higher compensatory awards for willful infringement.
Amazon Seller’s Attorneys Can Help – Mandour & Associates
The advent of online marketplaces has made it easier for counterfeiters and other intellectual property violators to infringe upon IP rights. Fortunately, changes in the way these marketplaces function has also provided better tools to counteract and respond to the violations. If you have an Amazon issue, our Amazon seller’s lawyers can help.
For a consultation regarding an Amazon issue, please contact us today.