I don’t think I ever really understood how important Amazon is for online businesses until I heard this stat:
In the US, 60 cents of every dollar spent online goes to Amazon.
Just let that sink in for a moment. 60 cents of Every. Single. Dollar. Spent in one place.
Of course, this offers an undeniable opportunity. Anyone with a cell phone and credit card can now sell products around the world.
But it also comes with risks.
Specifically, if you’re trying to build a brand on Amazon, you’re opening yourself up to a world of hijackers who would happily rip off your product and resell it for their own profit.
These hijackers can really hurt your bottom line unless you protect your IP and take immediate steps to deal with them when they inevitably descend.
Of course, there are law firms who can take care of all of that for you…for $500 an hour.
Or, you can learn from one of the experts — CJ Rosenbaum. He’s the founder and lead attorney at Amazon Sellers Law, and he joined the Retail Global stage to give advice on how to protect your brand on Amazon.
HOW TO: Use IP law to defend your brand against hijackers on Amazon
1. The #1 threat to your IP lies at the source — the factory
The moment your product enters China (or any other source country), file trademark protection for your product, logo, company name, and any Chinese versions of that name. You also need to file for patent protection. CJ recommends having boots on the ground to get it done.
If you have questions about the process or you get stuck, you can ask CJ’s firm free of charge →
2. Create a visually unique product to protect it under Trade Dress law
Trade Dress includes the color, shape, packaging, etc. It’s what differentiates your product and protects it from knockoffs. You don’t have to file anything, and it never expires.
Your product doesn’t have to be anything new, it just needs to look new →
3. First line of defense = consistently monitoring your brand and listings
If you’ve got 5-50 product listings, you’ll know right away if your products are getting hijacked. With more listings than that, you’ll want to start automating the process.
You can elect to get daily or bi-daily reports to keep a close eye →
4. If you spot a hijacking, first try resolving it amicably with a cease & desist letter
CJ’s firm resolves 75% of their cases with this simple letter. It has 3 parts: 1) identify the specific violation of your IP rights; 2) give them the chance to willingly stop selling; 3) provide a strict deadline.
If you’re dealing with constant hijackers, you can automate your C&D letters →
5. If they don’t stop selling, then you can file an infringement report
This should NOT be your go-to strategy. You want to avoid angering hijackers who can bash your products with negative reviews and mass returns after you get their account suspended.
File a report only if the C&D letter fails →
6. Avoid reselling highly-protected products to reduce chances of getting suspended yourself
Certain brands like Apple, HP, and Nike are extremely serious about cracking down on hijackers. Do yourself a favor — avoid the heavy-hitters.
Brands aside, the #1 cause of suspensions is selling “inauthentic” products. You can normally fix this by sending Amazon copies of your invoices, if they have the right info →
7. If you do get suspended, immediately submit a Plan of Action to Amazon
Your plan needs to address 3 things:
- Root Cause: Address why your account got suspended in the first place.
- Prior actions: What happened when the customer complained? Write that you refunded them, let them keep the product for free, and offered to give them 3 more. And actually do it. Why? Because money lost on that free product is nothing compared to money lost from a suspended account.
- Future Change: How will you change your business practices so that Amazon never has a problem with you again? Be sincere and humble.
CJ has a series of Youtube videos to help you get started crafting your Plan of Action →
8. Add statements to your labels and listings indicating you have IP protection
Here’s a little secret: the Amazon MPA team doesn’t actually have legal training. If they see statements like “warranty invalid if resold by an unauthorized seller” or “you cannot resell this product for a minimum price,” they’ll take that as a sign of IP protection.
Note: this isn’t a substitute for getting your products legally protected; it’s just a way of increasing the chances that Amazon will lean in your favor.