If you’re an Amazon seller who manufactures and sells your own branded products, you likely think about selling and trademark infringement in some way, shape or form – especially with the rise in seller fraud across Amazon. After all, how can you be sure that other sellers aren’t counterfeiting your products and damaging your brand on Amazon as a result?
On the flip side, how do you navigate trademark restrictions on name-brands you currently sell, or might have an opportunity to sell?
Whether you have your own trademarked brand or are an authorized name-brand reseller, here is everything you need to consider when it comes to selling and trademark infringement.
Part 1: When Your Brand / Product Has a Trademark
If you’ve gone through the process of trademarking your brand and/or product(s), you know it is lengthy and expensive. So the last thing you want is another business knocking off your items and ultimately stealing your customers.
Thankfully, Amazon takes trademark infringement seriously and will put sellers on hold (or even shut down offending accounts) when legitimate violations occur. Here is a look at some of the ways Amazon is trying to prevent infringement and how you can spot and report it:
Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon created its Brand Registry to give more product listing control to sellers who manufacture or sell private label products. It allows you to influence product detail pages and list products without UPCs or EANs. Moreover, Amazon recently announced that it will be adding counterfeit protection to Brand Registry whereby brands will be able to register their logo and IP with Amazon, and report violations for subsequent removal of any offending listings and/or accounts.
This recent update is still in beta, but you can read more about it at CPC Strategy.
How to Spot Trademark Infringement
Whether or not you’re part of the Amazon Brand Registry, you should keep an eye on these common signs of trademark infringement:
- Listing Performance: If you lose the Buy Box or notice your performance metrics decreasing, it may be because someone is selling your product. Not only that, someone could be selling your product for less than the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP).
- Negative Reviews About Product Quality: If you’re getting more negative reviews that often mention quality issues, it could be because another seller is using your trademark to sell counterfeit versions of your products.
- Decrease in Sales/Revenue: Similar to a drop in Buy Box percentage, a decrease in product sales and/or overall business revenues could be a sign that your would-be customers are shopping from a counterfeit listing.
How to Report Trademark Infringement
Amazon provides sellers (and buyers) with an online form to report intellectual property violations, such as copyright and trademark infringement. The form is intended for use by the intellectual property rights owners and their agents only.
As we mentioned earlier in this post, Amazon Brand Registry has beta launched a new feature for registered sellers to report violations. We will continue following this development and keep you apprised of any noteworthy updates.
Part 2: Becoming a Private Label Seller
If trademarking your brand and/or products is too much of a hassle for you, you may want to consider selling private-label products. This is when you buy a generic product and sell it under your own brand.
Getting Started with Private Label
The process for launching a private-label storefront is pretty straightforward, but it often requires a lot of upfront time and cost. Here are three simple steps to follow:
- Step One: Find generic products that are already selling well on Amazon. Look at Amazon’s Best Sellers list as a place to start, then research suppliers in the U.S. or internationally. Alibaba can help you find international suppliers.
- Step Two: Develop your logo and packaging. Once you’ve found your product(s) from step one, you need to re-package them with your logo and branding. You don’t need to have a design background for this — consider a service like Fiverr or Thumbtack to find designers that can help you on your budget.
- Step Three: Market your product(s). Create compelling listings with product detail and high-resolution photos. Be sure to highlight your competitive edge.
‘(Look) for a product with a Best Seller Ranking of less than 2,000 and with less than 1,000 reviews. A product with a Best Seller Rank of less than 2,000 means the product is selling well on Amazon while reviews of less than 1,000 means the competition is not too high (you can find both of these numbers right on the listing of any product on Amazon).’ – Amazon seller Susan in an interview with The Selling Family.
Amazon FBA for Private-Label
Once you have your private label products set to go, you may want to consider joining Amazon’s FBA program — that way you don’t have to spend your time fulfilling orders and can instead focus on growing your business.
Part 3: Selling Trademarked Brand-name Items
A third option is to re-sell popular brand name items, but before you do this, you need to figure out if you are even allowed to sell it and/or get permission from the brand owner.
Becoming an Authorized Seller
This means you need to be an authorized distributor, which refers to a seller who buys directly from the manufacturer and has permission to list and sell on Amazon. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Purchase your inventory directly from the manufacturer or from brand-authorized distributors. And keep your receipts/invoices!
- Sign an authorized dealer agreement with them and get written permission to sell online and on Amazon.
- List your authorized products only on the ASIN page that is an exact match of your product. And by “exact match” we mean everything should be the same, including UPC code, brand, color, style, description, bullet points, photos, part number, etc.
- Avoid off-brand products that too closely resemble name-brands. You may be accused of selling knock-off, counterfeit goods. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell generic, but just be careful that the generic version isn’t violating a patent and don’t use the brand name in any of your descriptions.
Not sure if something is trademarked? Look up the brand and/or item on USPTO.gov’s trademark database.
Getting a Trademark Claim
Have you ever received a notice from Amazon that you’ve violated a trademark? Assuming you are an authorized retailer, you may simply need to connect the dots for the IP holder. In other words, it’s possible that the brand owner has your business listed as an authorized reseller under a different name than your Amazon storefront, leading them to believe that you’re not actually approved to sell their item and/or use their brand name in your listing.
And if you’re not an authorized reseller, you should go through the process of becoming one or remove any offending listings – otherwise you could be subject to termination from Amazon or worse, a lawsuit.
For more guidance on copyright and trademark infringement, download CPC Strategy’s Brand Policing Best Practices for Amazon Sellers, an eBook and webinar to help you identify MAP violators and enforce brand policing on Amazon.