Why Amazon takes action on “fake” intellectual property claims

Jan 3, 2023

By: Lesley Hensell

Have you heard of intellectual property (IP) claims through Amazon FBA communities or social media?

An intellectual property claim occurs under the false infringement claim where a customer, brand, or competitor submits a claim on Amazon stating that you’re selling counterfeit goods or a patented product without the patent owner’s permission.

Fake intellectual property

intellectual property

Usually, when a brand files an IP complaint against a seller, Amazon is legally obliged to take action against the seller in question. This means removing the listing following a facially valid complaint for either copyright infringement, patent infringement, or trademark infringement. Amazon can also bar you from selling the product or ban you from ever selling on the platform.

The thing is, Amazon doesn’t typically look into the validity of an infringement claim when filed and will proceed to take action immediately. Because of that, there has been an increase in abusers of false infringement claims. Today anyone, including the brand owner or a competitor, can file a “fake” IP claim that could land you in trouble with Amazon. When an intellectual property claim is filed, it’s up to you or your lawyer to prove that the infringement claim is fake. If not, Amazon considers such a claim valid and actionable.

Continue reading to learn more about how fake intellectual property claims are filed, what action Amazon takes, and what to do when faced with such a predicament.

What is a fake IP claim?

An intellectual property claim is a complaint from a brand owner to Amazon regarding a product listing. The IP claim doesn’t touch on your inventory in Amazon fulfilling centers. Usually, an IP or copyright claim is filed when the brand owner believes that a product page on Amazon is using copy, image description, bullet points, and the brand name without the brand owner’s permission.

An IP claim is a serious infringement that might get you banned from selling on Amazon. Some brands file IP claims to control the listing and who sells their products. A fake intellectual property claim is usually filed for malicious reasons, primarily by a competitor or the brand owner.

So, why should you worry about fake intellectual property claims? Well, Amazon doesn’t have measures to determine if an IP claim is genuine or fake. They will take action first – act now, and ask questions later.

As long as the person filing the complaint fills the form correctly and fully, Amazon pulls down the listing and bars you from selling the product. Ideally, Amazon receives so many form submissions every day. So rather than risk legal repercussions from a brand owner for not taking action, Amazon takes a more aggressive route. They simply ensure the form is filled in correctly and then take down the listing. And that’s not even the worst part. Amazon leaves it up to you to track down whoever made the infringement claim and prove to them that the allegations were false.

Also, it’s worth noting that an IP claim will remain visible on your seller account for six months and then disappears. But that doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. Amazon keeps track of your IP and counterfeit claims, so just because they may disappear after six months doesn’t mean that Amazon doesn’t know they were on file. When claims add up, they end up hurting your seller metrics.

Why is Brand Registry helpful for IP claims?

The Amazon Brand Registry is a program created by Amazon to manage the overwhelming work associated with receiving IP complaints, acting on them, and entertaining appeals related to them.

While it helps mainly Amazon more than the seller to avoid legal repercussions like lawsuits, Brand Registry does help identify brand owners to Amazon. The program helps brand owners protect their intellectual property. The program has a dedicated team you can contact to report IP infringements and policy violations. If buyers are leaving negative reviews on your listing because someone is selling a knock-off of your product or a product in bad condition, you can file for IP and trademark infringement against the said seller.

Do competitors file fake IP claims?

While IP claims are filed mainly by brand owners, competitors and black hat sellers sometimes file fake IP claims. At other times, the brand owner is taking a more aggressive route or being unfair with their IP complaints by filing a fake claim.

A competitor or black hat seller filing an intellectual property claim on Amazon will not use a valid email but a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail address. They may also use a fake law firm address to file the complaint. Either way, Amazon still has to take legal action.

Usually, if someone swears under penalty of perjury that their intellectual property has been abused, Amazon has no choice but to pull down the listing from their platform. Amazon doesn’t owe it to you to investigate whether the claim is genuine or fake. Their loyalty is to themselves first because the company risks legal suits from brand owners for not taking action against an IP claim. So, the easiest course of action is to treat all IP infringement claims the same way regardless of whether the complainant is the actual brand owner, competitor, or black hat seller.

How do valid brand owners file fake IP claims?

Now unbelievably, even valid brand owners make fake IP claims, and there is nothing you can do about it. Brand owners file fake complaints to try and control the sales of their products which is actually against Amazon’s terms of service. If you suspect that the brand owner has filed a complaint for this exact reason, you can take it up with Amazon Seller Support, who will take action against the brand for violating its terms of service.

So, how do valid brand owners file fake claims? Here’s how:

  • The brand owner claims the sale of counterfeit goods: Brand owners might argue that the item you are selling is counterfeit even if it’s not. They do this even without a test buyer to keep sellers and resellers off their listings. Selling counterfeit items is a cardinal sin on Amazon, and a brand owner who files a complaint on this basis knows that your account might get suspended or your listing removed permanently.
  • The brand owner claims copyright and trademark infringement: A brand owner might also make a false claim that another seller is violating their trademark or copyright. This can happen even though you are selling the correct product and not violating any IP law. Copyright infringement happens when a seller uses a brand’s images or text without proper authorization from the brand in question to use it on Amazon. Ideally, product listings, physical products, and packaging can’t include copyrighted images or content unless the copyright owner explicitly authorizes it. A trademark infringement involves using words or symbols registered to a specific product or company that shouldn’t be used or reproduced without the company’s authorization.

Either way, whether the brand owner is filing the complaint to keep sellers off their listings or you actually violated IP laws, Amazon has no choice but to act legally and swiftly take down your listing. All the brand owner needs to do is fill out a form and swear under penalty of perjury that you’re abusing their intellectual property.

Conclusion

Receiving an intellectual property claim is frustrating, especially if you have a lot of inventory at the Amazon FBA warehouse. It means you can no longer sell the items on Amazon if the brand prohibits it. An IP claim will result in your listing being taken down, your account suspended, or a ban from selling on Amazon.

The good news is that these claims are appealable regardless of the situation. It is not Amazon’s job to investigate whether the claim is genuine or false but yours. Start the appeal process if you believe that the IP claim that resulted in your listing being taken down was fake. Usually, these appeals win as long as they are supported with good documentation. Riverbend Consulting has the experience and resources to handle such appeals on your behalf. Contact us if you’re a victim of a false IP complaint that has resulted in you being unable to sell your ASINs. We can help!

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