Success on Amazon is due in part to how quickly a seller may access an e-commerce platform. Unlike Walmart, which puts its prospective sellers through an extensive vetting process, it is relatively easy to obtain a seller account on Amazon, if you can prove a physical address with a utility bill and have a valid credit or debit card. Unfortunately, this means you are competing with thousands of sellers with little or no e-commerce experience, as well as many fraudsters and counterfeiters.
Amazon’s answer to the problem is not to vet sellers to prevent intellectual property infringement, but to create a massive bureaucracy dedicated to catching counterfeiters. And with intellectual property infringement complaints or even the suspicion of intellectual property infringement, they will not hesitate to pull the trigger and suspend your Amazon seller account. As a consequence, Amazon sellers are advised to take preemptive measures to prevent Amazon seller account deactivation or suspension. Appeals can take months to resolve, and this can put even the healthiest ecommerce store out of business.
Amazon’s selling policies strictly require Amazon sellers to comply with applicable intellectual property laws, which result in suspensions for patent infringement, trademark infringement and copyright infringement on a daily basis.
Patent infringement can be either the use of a patented technology (utility patent infringement) or design (design patent infringement). Copyright infringement results from the use of someone else’s original images, literary or art works. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark in connection with the marketing of goods in a manner that is likely to cause confusion with regard to the source of that product.
Many sellers will list their registered trademark in connection with the sale of generic products so beware! Even if you are selling the same generic product, if the brand of the listing is a registered trademark, you could be subject to ASIN deactivation or seller account suspension.
Preventative Measures to Avoid Infringement Complaints
It is often difficult to deal with wholesale suppliers or brands, especially if they are sizable enterprises, but one method to avoid suspension for intellectual property infringement is to obtain a letter of authorization from the brand and, if not the brand, from the brand’s authorized wholesale distributor, who should identify itself as such. Amazon will often ask for such a letter in the event of an infringement complaint.
Amazon will always ask for invoices in the case of intellectual property infringement complaints, and they have specific requirements for those invoices. These requirements include they must be within 365 days, they must show the name and address of the buyer (Amazon seller) and the name, address, telephone number, email and website address of the seller (your supplier). Amazon will contact the supplier to verify the invoice so, whatever you do, do not alter them in any way. The invoice should also reference the brand and name of the product.
Alternative Retail Site
Having an ecommerce website or a Shopify site, as well as eBay and Walmart seller accounts will allow you to stay in business in the event of a suspension or deactivation, which could take months to resolve.
File Proactive Appeals
A proactive appeal should be filed on any policy warning or listing removal, especially with regard to intellectual property or inauthentic product listing removals. This shows Amazon you are serious about complying with their policies. We here at Amazon Sellers Attorney provide such a service on a monthly basis. For $500 per month, you get free unlimited appeals. Our clients rave about this service, because $6,000 a year is a lot less expensive than paying thousands to appeal a suspension and losing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Copyright Infringement Prevention
Make sure the images you use on your product packaging and detail pages are original or licensed by you from the creator of the image or a reliable stock photo service. Also perform general searches on any products with a particular design to ascertain if anyone claims copyright on them, including checking with the US Copyright Office for registration.
Patent Infringement Prevention
Many suppliers, especially from unverified sources such as Alibaba, sell knock off or counterfeit products. Make sure you are dealing with a reliable supplier and go the extra mile of checking for a registered patent on the USPTO or a service such as Google Patents. Check designs for potential design patent infringement.
Trademark Infringement Prevention
The First Sale Doctrine provides that those who resell genuine trademarked products are not liable for trademark infringement. However, many aggressive brands will file infringement complaints and this defense is not going to prevent suspension. Check the brand name of every listing you plan to join with the USPTO before you list the product. And remember, even if Amazon “invites” you to join a particular listing, that does not mean you may do so with impunity. Always check first.
Trade dress or logos can also be trademarked, as well as fabric patterns. A search service such as Trademarkia.com can help you search for designs that may have trademark protection.
The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is more applicable to Amazon sellers than anyone else when it comes to preventing intellectual property infringement complaints. And remember, Amazon Sellers Attorney is here to help with both prevention and suspension.