Operating as a seller in Amazon marketplace, you may one day find yourself in receipt of a notice or claim of trademark infringement. It can be very scary, not to mention threatening to the on-going success of your business, to receive a letter like that. Many recipients of such letters are left at a loss – they don’t know what to do next. This article is going to give some helpful guidance on how to handle a situation where you stand accused of trademark infringement.
What exactly is trademark infringement?
A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase, used to identify a particular manufacturer or seller’s products and distinguish them from the products of another. For example, the trademark “Nike,” along with the Nike “swoosh,” identify the shoes made by Nike and distinguish them from shoes made by other companies (e.g. Reebok or Adidas). Under some circumstances, trademark protection can extend beyond words, symbols, and phrases to include other aspects of a product, such as its color or its packaging.
Trademark infringement occurs when someone takes a trademark, if you take someone’s mark and put it on your product, that is clearly trademark infringement.
Amazon takes trademark infringement very seriously and, states that all sellers must comply with federal, state and local laws as well as Amazon policies regarding all products and product listings.
Amazon is clear on the consequences of trademark infringement and its policy states that sellers committing trademark infringement risk being suspended from selling privileges and, in some cases, legal action.
From the moment that you begin sourcing product to sell, you need to practice responsibility for your product. To begin with, this means identifying which of your sourced products are branded. For more details of the Intellectual Property Policy, check HERE.
Steps to handle Trademark complaint
1- Don’t panic
Relax. Just remember- Amazon claims happen more often than there is a legal basis for. Be rational and level headed. Don’t respond to a claim in a frenzied state.
2- Identify where the complaint comes from
A private label company or individual – they are trying to “intimidate” you off the site. They likely don’t have a claim or they would go through Amazon. If they are harassing you using Amazon’s platform, you can report them to Amazon.
A company or lawyer – it may be not legitimate. If it not through Amazon directly, your listing won’t be shut down yet. You can only be removed from Amazon if Amazon contacts you directly.
If directly from Amazon through Seller Central – then you should consider it seriously. If it comes from Amazon’s Legal department, your listing or entire business could get temporarily or permanent shut down.
These complaints often come from another seller or manufacturer who submitted documentation through Amazon’s reporting system. They likely proved that they are the rights holder in some way, either through paperwork or Amazon Brand Registry. Amazon is then supporting the person who made that claim until you prove your “innocence”.
3- Analyze the Infringement Accusation
Look at the complaint to see who is “ in the right”. It’s possible that you infringed by accident ( or on purpose) – and now is the time to notice that before entering into legal battle.
For example, if you copied listing’s title, bullet points or descriptions directly from competitors’ listing, which included a word or phrase that were trademarked, then you likely did infringe on trademark laws. This sort of matter is not hard to resolve because you can take down the trademarked words or phrases and create your own listing. If you want to find out what words or phrases were trademarked, look at the USPTO database, do some searching on the “TESS” page of the USPTO’s website.
What if you know you did nothing wrong? If you have created your own product with your own listing, it’s time to fight the claim. Counterfeit claims do pop up, don’t let harassment scare you.
4- Take action
If you have infringed somehow
Now it’s time to do something, proceed with caution. All these actions could have legal consequences, so be careful.
- Remove. You may decide to remove listings that are the subject of the infringement accusation. This removal might be temporary or permanent. Removal might minimize the damages you owe for trademark violation. But it can also suggest fault.
- Respond. It’s time to contact the complainant. First, discuss how you plan to resolve the issue and ask if they will then retract the form. Then, fix the problem as soon as possible
- Get legal support. It ‘s not always easy, though. If the claim is serious, you need to respond appropriately and cautiously. Your business could be at state. It might be time to get an attorney. A lawyer will draw up an official letter to send to the complainant and Amazon, discussing your legal basis for this action.
If you have not infringed
You will need to provide Amazon with documentation that you are the rights owner of the product, brand and content.
You should respond to Amazon’s case (email@example.com.) stating the following:
- Explain that you are aware of the situation and have contacted the complainant
- Explain that you understand how the problem may have arisen – and give details, such as similarity of logo, etc.
- Show evidence that you have not committed infringement, such as a certificate of ownership or documentation from a supplier
- Ask for your account to be restored
When it comes to trademarks or any other kind of intellectual property, infringement is essentially considered to be theft and, so, you should always take any claims or cases extremely seriously. The best practice by far is to prevent this from happening in the first place. But if you unfortunately encounter this kind of problem, hopefully this article would be helpful to solve the issue.
Get support if Amazon account is suspended.
If Amazon suspends your account due to trademark infringement claim and you need help, do not hesitate to contact Amazoker to get advice and get your account reinstated.