If you are selling physical products with any regularity and volume, you are bound to come across some form of intellectual property infringement on Amazon sooner or later. Believe it or not, you are not the first seller to have this issue.
Unfortunately, there are lots of unscrupulous sellers out there that are just looking to make a quick buck, and are more than happy to rip-off your awesome sales copy without thinking twice about it.
So what do you do when you come across these types of violations? To be honest it all starts with laying the proper legal foundation, ahead of time, so that if a bad apple seller comes in and starts copying your listing, you can take them down pretty easily through a cease and desist letter or by contacting Amazon directly.
Legal Protections to prevent Intellectual Property Infringement on Amazon
In terms of the steps you need to proactively take to protect your intellectual property on Amazon, we recommend doing the following things for each item you are selling:
- Get your brand trademarked. This is the first thing you should do because it will prevent someone from swooping in to steal your brand name without you knowing. It also gives you considerable clout when contacting Amazon to have a copycat listing taken down.
- Register for Brand Registry. You can do this before you even file your trademark – and you probably should.
- File for copyright protection on your sales copy and the images you place on your listing. This is relatively inexpensive and gives you another arrow in your quiver in the event that someone attempts to infringe on your intellectual property.
- Where appropriate, file for a patent. If you are selling a product that you invented or designed, getting a patent is an absolute must. You will need to contact a patent attorney to file the application for you (sorry, we don’t do that).
- Get a good lawyer on your side who can address IP violations for you. It’s better to be proactive in this rather than wait until a violation has taken place to hire someone. By getting a lawyer involved early, they can make sure you have a solid foundation in place to protect all your intellectual property.
What to do if someone has put up a copycat listing?
Regardless of whether you have taken the five steps I’ve outlined above or not, there are four things you will want to do to enforce your intellectual property for your Amazon listing.
The first thing you need to do is to monitor your listing regularly. In this situation, it is helpful to have a virtual assistant reviewing you competitor listings at least once a week to scan for any potential violations. If you see a new seller come into your category, check their listing to make sure they haven’t stolen your intellectual property. You can also copy some of your sales copy and run a Google search on it. If any Amazon listings pop up that aren’t yours, there may be a violation.
Second, if and when you do find a violation, you need to take immediate action. This is why we recommend having a lawyer retained and ready to send out a cease and desist immediately as soon as you find a violation. The longer you let them sell, the more they could hurt your rankings and, ultimately, your sales. In addition, they are solidifying their hold on the sales copy on their page and making it more difficult for you to prove a violation (especially if you haven’t filed for copyright protection as outlined above).
Third, have your lawyer send out a cease and desist letter to the offending seller and file for copyright protection at the same time (if you haven’t already filed for it). This puts the offender on notice that they have violated your copyright and keeps them from filing a copyright on the material before you do. You can take these steps on your own, but honestly, your lawyer will do a better job, and don’t you have better things to do like source new products and grow your business?
Finally, you want to contact Amazon and ask that they take down the offending listing. Here is what Amazon says about Copyright Infringement:
Amazon respects the intellectual property of others. If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, follow the notice and procedure for the Amazon site where you identified the infringement.
Amazon asks that you use their online form, which can be found here. Alternatively, you can submit a written report via email or by mailing it to Amazon’s legal department directly. If you wish to submit a report in writing, you need to include the following information (per Amazon’s procedures):
- An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest;
- A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed upon;
- A description of where the material you claim is infringing is located on the site;
- Your address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
- A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
- A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner's behalf.
Here is the contact information for Amazon’s legal department:
Amazon.com Legal Department
P.O. Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108
Phone: (206) 266-4064
Fax: (206) 266-7010
Amazon.com Legal Department
410 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109-5210
Alternatively, feel free to contact us using our online form and we will be in touch to schedule a free strategy session to determine the legal needs of your Amazon business.