Amazon Sellers know that when they have a successful product, counterfeiters and hijackers appear on their listings. The hijackers get on your listing, undercut your prices and deliver inferior products. The customers complain about the products received from the hijackers, you get blamed via Amazon’s commingling and you get suspended. If you are fortunate, your account survives, the hijackers eat into your sales and you lose profit. After all that, Amazon may even jump on your listing after suspension.
Amazon Brand Registry and Brand Gating are only a start. If you want to protect your brand and products from hijackers, there are additional steps you need to take to increase your ability to knock hijackers off your Amazon listings.
Protect your listings, protect your brand. Filing for Brand Registry and Brand Gating is only a portion of brand protection that you need to get hijackers off your listings.
Amazon’s Brand Registry Explained
We have had clients who lost control of their product’s detail pages. Competitors, counterfeiters and others have taken over detail pages and made multiple alterations. We have seen detail pages changed to include photographs of counterfeit products. We have seen sellers where their detail pages have had the descriptions of the products changed.
When a competitor can change the detail page, they can alter the any or all of the facts, images and descriptions that you created so that it feeds their sales, not yours.
Amazon Brand Registry gets you control over the detail pages for your brand’s products. If you obtain Brand Registry, then your competitors should not be able to change your listings. Control over the catalog page on Amazon should be yours. Brand Registry only protects the listing from being changed, it doesn’t provide any protection from other people selling your products.
Amazon’s Brand Gating Explained
Brand Registry Amazon program allows you to apply for what Amazon thinks is best: limited number of sellers for each brand. While Amazon sellers get some protection from Amazon deciding who may sell your brand, it doesn’t protect you from unauthorized sellers. It may even encourage them.
By obtaining Brand Gating, you have agreed that Amazon may decide who can sell your brand…Not You. On a positive note, Amazon is likely to limit the number of hijackers on your listings, but they certainly will not protect enforce your rights to stop others from selling.
Amazon’s Brand Gating Only Limits Number of Hijackers, It Doesn’t Stop Them
Now that you are aware that the Amazon’s Brand Gating merely limits hijackers, you need to know about the hijackers the program does not prevent.
Brand Gating does nothing to stop Amazon itself from selling on your listing. The Amazon platform belongs to Amazon. Of course Amazon will pass its own Brand Gating qualifications. So, first and foremost, Brand Gating alone does nothing to prevent Amazon from jumping on your listing, taking the Buy Box and your sales and profits.
The bottom line is that while Brand Gating is a positive step in limiting hijackers and other sellers undercutting your prices and profits, it certainly does not fully protect you or the brand you are building. The most feared hijacker of all (Amazon) can still sell your products.
Brand Gating Relinquishes Power
When you obtain Brand Gating, you are placing Amazon in the decision maker’s chair about who can sell your product. Amazon, not you, decides who can sell your brand and who can hijack your listings.
Amazon will allow other sellers to sell your brand and product if they are good at selling, have great metrics and can show that they are obtaining your products from a “reliable” source. Basically, if a good seller has penetrated your distribution chain, they can obtain Amazon’s blessing to hijack your listing. Similarly, if a “good” seller has exploited holes in your distribution, they can also obtain Amazon’s blessing to hijack your listing.
Brand Gating Encourages Hijacking
In an age where it is easy to see what products are doing well and which brands are gaining traction, Amazon has encouraged people and companies to breach your defenses. Amazon has now encouraged successful sellers to reach out to your factories, sourcing agents, distributors and retailers for your products. This is occurring because other sellers need to show that they obtained your goods from “reliable” vendors. It seems that a better way to describe the “acceptable” distributors to Amazon would be: “disloyal” rather than “reliable.”
What Should Sellers Do to Protect Their Brands and Products
In addition to Amazon Brand Registry and Brand Gating, Amazon sellers should take several additional steps if they want to protect their brand prevent others from selling their products.
5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Brand and Listings
- Create a logo
- Trademark your logo in the US
- Register your Trademark where you are sourcing and the prime counterfeiting countries
- Create a warranty, license or other “add on” that others cannot sell
- Monitor your brand
1) Create a Logo
If you develop a brand, you need to develop a logo or a “mark” that indicates the product is branded. Most people recognize the Nike swoosh, the golden arches of McDonald’s, and that KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Apple’s logo is known worldwide.
For your brand, you need something that indicates that the product is yours. It could be a drawing or graphic you create, or you can hire a designer to create one for you. As in most services, there are traditional and expensive routes, and less expensive designers and independents or you can go onto Fiverr or UpWork. Amazon Sellers Lawyer uses an independent graphic designer named Liz Degen for our graphic needs, and highly recommend her.
Liz describes a logo as “a great design that imports feelings in the viewer“
“We worked with Liz to create a logo for AmazonSellersLawyer.com that showed that we work with Sellers around the world. Our interlocking circles are meant to import a feeling of our interconnected world,” says CJ Rosenbaum, founder of AmazonSellersLawyer.com.
Whatever route you choose to create your logo, try and obtain one that is unique and communicates information about your brand on a visceral level. When someone sees your logo, they should feel something. When a customer sees your logo, it should provide instant information.
Sometimes the level of quality or meaning you seek for your brand is one that states that your product is the best value for the money. Other logos are intended to promote high quality and high price. Luxury goods have different logos than products intended for the masses.
2) Obtain Trademark Protection in the US
Once you have your logo or “mark,” you need to protect that mark.
Anyone can file for trademark protection in the United States. The basics of filing for trademark protection include filling out a form with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (referred to as the “USPTO”), selecting the categories of goods and products you want the sole use of your mark, and paying fees.
Most trademark applications in the US are fairly simple projects. Similar to US tax returns, you can apply for trademark protection on your own.
When you are filing, you will have to select the categories of products where you want sole use of your mark. For example, you may intend to create iPhone cases with your mark today and possibly expand into other accessories, or even clothing later. You will want to file for protection in all categories of goods that you anticipate entering. There is no need to choose categories that you will never enter. For example, the electronics accessory and possible fashion designer will likely never enter the heavy machinery category. Each category costs additional fees. Be wise, choose thoughtfully.
3) Register Your Trademark Where You are Sourcing and Major Counterfeiting Areas
Once you have your USPTO approval, you should consider the following: foreign counterfeiters do not care about you, US courts or US Judges.
Since we know that counterfeiters in other countries do not fear you, US courts or US judges, you should consider positioning your brand to be able to fight counterfeiters. File for protection where you might need it.
Register Your Trademark Where You Are Sourcing Your Product
If you are taking your great idea and giving it to factory in China, Vietnam or India, that is where you may need protection to stop or limit “grey” market goods.
If you want to obtain protection against counterfeiters, partner with the law. In China, when a person has issues with the government and they want to speak with that business person, they call it “getting invited for tea.” Business people do not want to get “invited for tea.”
There are also numerous mechanisms in the major manufacturing countries to protect intellectual property rights. However, in order to access routes to stop the counterfeiters, you need to obtain the ability to use the local tools.
How Do You File for International Protection? How Do You Gain Access to Leverage Abroad?
There are two avenues you can take to obtain trademark protection in other countries. You can file for protection in each country or you can use something called the Madrid system and file in multiple countries at the same time.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) a service that allows you to file for trademark protection in multiple countries at the same time. WIPO also offers online monitoring of your filings and trademarks, databases for rights owners and other services.
4) Add Something to Your Product that Unauthorized Sellers Cannot Provide
You can add to your ability to sweep hijackers off your listings by using “Add Ons” to a product or “bundling” something with the product that other sellers cannot provide.
For example, many products come with warranties that are only valid if the products are purchased from authorized sellers. If Amazon or someone else obtains your product and sells it, the warranty would be void and therefore the consumer is not getting the “complete” product. The complete product comes with a warranty.
If you sell a certain electronic device, fashion or tool, you can bundle other items with your listing. For example, if you are selling electronic devices and create a “kit” that includes 2 or more items, then only sellers who are also bundling the item with the same exact items should be able to remain on the listing. Similarly, if the product comes with a license to use something, like a software or to receive a newsletter or advice, then other sellers cannot sell the same product: their products will not come with the license.
5) Monitor Your Brand
In order to protect your brand, you need to monitor your brand. As soon as you see other people or companies on your listing, you need to address it. First and foremost, if you have followed the advice in this article, your sword to cut the hijackers off your listing should be sharp.
Review your product and draft and send a Cease and Desist letter. Tell the infringer why he is not selling the same product to the consumer. Let the hijacker know that if he or she doesn’t get off your listing you will file a complaint with Amazon that will put his or her entire account at risk. Sellers fear suspension, even more than Amazon jumping on your listing. Let the hijacker know that unless they cease and desist from selling your product, you will file a complaint with Notice@Amazon.com.
Monitoring your brand also means watching your organic sales and taking other steps to prevent grey market goods from ending up in other sellers’ hands. If you are selling 10,000 units a month, do not push out 20,000. Try not to place undue pressure on distributors or retailers to move more goods than they can. When distributors have too many goods they sell them wherever they can. When retailers have left overs, your goods end up on the discount rack where Amazon sellers in Retail Arbitrage shop.
About the Author
This is a guest post from Amazon Sellers Lawyer.
Amazon Sellers Lawyer is a legal team that is dedicated to defending sellers’ rights by applying legal strategies to protect their accounts and handle account suspensions, complaints and policy violations. Founder, CJ Rosenbaum started his practice in 1994 where he represented entrepreneurs who operate both online & brick & mortar businesses. CJ is also a courtroom lawyer and litigator. CJ has represented various people across the United States, has taken countless depositions and tries more cases each year than most lawyers do during their entire careers.
Amazon Sellers Lawyer has the legal background needed to tackle Intellectual Property complaints that arise on the Amazon platform. Many times, these complaints are baseless or simply misguided. This legal team has the experience needed to resolve these issues and have a seller’s account reinstated. Amazon suspends sellers’ accounts everyday, and those sellers often feel helpless. This firm takes pride in being able to help get these accounts reinstated and work with these individuals to implement new business practices that will prevent future issues.
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