Intellectual Property infringement is not a violation to be taken lightly. Not only is it against the law, it is also explicitly against Amazon policy. A single complaint carries the possibility of full account deactivation and an indefinite hold on funds disbursement.
To complicate matters, Amazon’s policies versus what they enforce do not always align. There are major flaws with Amazon’s intellectual property reporting system. Competitive sellers using black hat tactics and anti-competitive behavior regularly report products and other sellers as infringing without justification. What can a seller who is committed to following Amazon’s rules and policies do to protect themselves? Be prepared.
Here, we cover the ins and outs of Intellectual Property (IP) seller infringement to help you honor intellectual property laws and comply with Amazon’s policies.
Source reputably & verifiably
If you are a reseller, sourcing from the brand’s authorized supply chain is the best way to ensure your products are authentic. This is the first step to protect against infringement complaints. If you are buying from a small supplier without a large web presence, expect Amazon to tell you it can’t verify your supplier. This means they have not been able to establish that your supplier purchased inventory within the brand’s authorized supply chain. When this happens, Amazon requests your supplier’s invoices. It demonstrates a valid chain of custody.
Ideally, your supplier should be willing to share its own invoices if Amazon is unable to verify them. However, many refuse to disclose their sourcing because they don’t want their customers to bypass them for a better price. This is something you should address with your supplier before placing your first order. Bottom line – source from an established, trustworthy supplier.
List your products accurately
Many well-meaning sellers list their product against the wrong detail page. This results in unintended Intellectual Property (IP) violations. Locating and listing against the correct product detail page is a crucial step in preventing intellectual property infringement.
- Always use the Global Product Identifier, SKU/Unique Product ID when locating your product in Amazon’s catalog. Searching for your product by title will often result in listing against the wrong Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN).
- Check the product details for accuracy. Does the version, color, images, brand on the detail page match every single aspect of your product? If not, don’t list against it.
- Is the brand accurate and spelled correctly? For brands that require a selling application, some sellers bypass the ungating process by creating duplicate product detail pages with the brand intentionally misspelled. If you list against one of these misbranded detail pages, you are violating Trademark IP and setting yourself up for bigger problems down the road.
How to appeal an intellectual property suspension
Be sure to know what Amazon requires from you to successfully dispute a violation. Be prepared for being hit with an intellectual property (IP) complaint. Amazon will request the following:
- Invoice(s). Invoices prove your products are authentic—or should. In many cases, Amazon may be unable to verify your supplier or simply will not accept your invoices as proof of non-infringement. Invoices alone rarely keep you in the clear.
- Letters of authorization. Authorization letters are only valid if issued by the brand owner. “Kayleigh’s Warehouse Deals” cannot issue a letter of authorization for any product not owned by Kayleigh’s Warehouse Deals. Well, it can, but Amazon won’t accept it as proof of non-infringement.
- Written retraction from the rights owner. This requires the brand owner or appointed representative to log in to Seller Central and admit they made a mistake using Amazon’s IP reporting system. A retraction also allows the reported seller to list against the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) again. Rights owner retractions are not common, especially if the complaint was issued in bad faith. If you truly want to be protected from intellectual property violations, you should reasonably be able to communicate with the brand owner for a retraction.
For many, the appeal process seems futile. Most sellers facing an Intellectual Property (IP) policy violation have submitted multiple appeals, included invoices and even retractions from bona fide brand owners. Amazon is stingy with IP-related reinstatements. When facing an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) suspension, or your account is suspended, experienced advisers, appeal writers and ex-Amazonians are ready to help (that’s us by the way). We’re here to help.