Brands should be protected on Amazon and any other online platform. But numerous unscrupulous sellers and counterfeit products flood the Amazon marketplace. We’re here to help you protect your brand.
Fakes on Amazon
Dishonest and unauthorized sellers and products are still part of the Amazon marketplace, despite Amazon’s efforts to deal with its counterfeit problem. Selling fake and pirated goods is a crime, and the victims are brands, consumers, and legitimate third-party sellers. One example out of many is a lawsuit filed by 3M during the coronavirus pandemic alleging that a seller on Amazon has offered fake, defective, and damaged N95 respirators under 3M brand for highly inflated prices.
Counterfeits are a problem on e-commerce sites. The counterfeit and piracy problem does not only relate to amazon.com but also Amazon’s domains worldwide. In its annual Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has addressed the challenges related to combating counterfeit goods online, such as on amazon.ca in Canada, amazon.de in Germany, amazon.fr in France, amazon.in in India, and amazon.co.uk in the United Kingdom.
How can Amazon sell counterfeits?
Amazon has millions of sellers. Sellers on Amazon can add products to existing listings and offer Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), which makes their products appear as if they were vetted by Amazon. Consumers often find it difficult to be sure who is the seller and whether they are authorized. Even right holders find it difficult to always know who is selling their products.
Since Amazon operates as an intermediary between buyers and sellers, it is protected under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) while it complies with the “notice and takedown” procedures which allow for the removal of allegedly infringing content from Amazon.
In the EU, similar intermediary shield is in place when an online marketplace doesn’t take an active role in the sale or promotion of counterfeits. If they have control over the information, when made aware of illegal third-party infringements, they must act to end the infringement.
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Counterfeiters and illegitimate sellers
Counterfeiters manufacture your brand’s products with no authorization. In doing so, they often manufacture and distribute low quality products, and fail to comply with safety standards and quality guidelines.
In addition to counterfeits, unauthorized sellers, and sometimes authorized sellers gone rogue, sell your brand’s product without authorization. Some of them can sell gray-market goods – genuine products obtained through unauthorized means, a version of the product which was manufactured for another country, and even factory surplus that was manufactured for sale out of authorized channels or accidentally.
Since they are selling outside of approved channels, they often don’t follow your brand’s guidelines, such as storage conditions, expiration dates, or damaged items. This may cause damage to consumers or even harm them, and it also damages your brand’s hard-earned and valuable reputation.
The truth is that anybody can become a seller on Amazon. It appears that counterfeiters and illegitimate sellers usually give false names and addresses. Without accurate seller information, if you shut down a rogue seller’s storefront for selling fakes, he can create a new one, making it hard to eradicate them from the platform.
Unauthorized and rogue sellers have ways to promote themselves and even succeed on Amazon, and they so with sophistication and scale.
(1) They use existing listings and offer their products. This means that rival sellers can compete on the same listing, and you don’t always know if your competitors are authorized or not.
(2) They offer a product variation on an existing listing even though they are not authorized to do so.
(3) They use the brand’s copyrighted images illegally to sell counterfeit items.
(1) Detect the unauthorized sellers and contact them to ask them where they get your product from. This can be done through Amazon Messages. If you know where they get their products, you may be able to cut off their supply chain, and eliminate the source.
(2) Find ways to identify unauthorized sellers. One way is to give products serial numbers, and guard your distribution system. Serialization can be done in different ways, such as through Amazon’s Transparency program. Products in the Transparency program get serial codes for a fee. The codes identify individual products and Amazon is committed to not ship the products to customers if the product is not authenticated. Authentication programs have the added benefit of growing consumer confidence in your products.
(3) Use a brand protection agency like Wiser Market to monitor your listings, detect and take down unauthorized sellers.
How to enforce your intellectual property rights?
Search – Monitor Amazon to detect counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers.
Identify – Find out the identity of the counterfeiters or unauthorized sellers of your products on Amazon.
Enforce – File intellectual property rights violation complaint to Amazon directly or through an agent, such as an online brand protection agency. It is often much more effective to approach the intermediary than the infringer.
To better address rogue sellers, add a manufacturer’s warranty to your product – be sure the warranty only applies to authorized sellers.
Then contact the unauthorized sellers – let them know that if they don’t have the warranty, they are required to sell your product on Amazon as used and not as new.
Registered IP rights, such as trademarks, copyright, and patents, are helpful when approaching Amazon with takedown requests. Start by registering your brand’s name and logo as a trademark.
Amazon Brand Registry requires trademark registration. After you enroll in the program, it helps you protect your trademarks and allows you more control over product listings of your registered brand.
Two additional Amazon brand protection programs are Project Zero and Brand Gating. As part of Project Zero, Amazon enables automated counterfeit removal. It also gives brands a tool that empowers them to remove counterfeit listings themselves instead of filing a report. Brand Gating allows brand owners and private label sellers to prevent unauthorized sellers from reselling on their listings. Unfortunately, both are currently invite-only and not available to every brand.
The Wiser Market solution
We believe that with brand abuse so prevalent in the digital world, brands and intellectual property rights holders should be proactive about protecting their rights online.
Monitoring and reporting counterfeits and other IP infringements on Amazon lie mainly with the authentic brands. And if that’s not difficult enough, removing one listing does not solve the problem because infringers can simply open a new one. This makes continuous monitoring critical.
To protect your brand online, you need a brand protection strategy. We suggest you consider professional online brand protection services. Wiser Market is an online brand protection agency dedicated to helping brands protect their intellectual property, sales, and reputation.
Our anti-counterfeit solutions include advanced monitoring technology, team expertise, and proactive enforcement to help you fight IP infringements with quick, effective results.
With Wiser Market, your brand will have an automatic solution, providing 360° protection suit, allowing you to grow your business.
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What is counterfeit?
A counterfeit is a fake, a product or service made in imitation with intent to deceive.
What are pirated goods?
Pirated goods are goods protected by copyrights which are reproduced without permission from the copyright owner, such as books, music, movies, and software.
Are there fakes on Amazon?
Yes, there are Amazon sellers who sell counterfeit products and deceive consumers.
Do you need a trademark for Amazon Brand Registry?
Amazon Brand Registry is an important tool, and your brand must have an active registered trademark if you want to enroll in the program.
Do you need authorization to sell branded products on Amazon?
Generally, it is not illegal to resell an item that you have purchased legitimately, such as sellers who try to take advantage of price arbitrage. However, third-party sellers are not allowed to use the brand’s logo or images. Also, if they sell the product as new, they should offer the same product, including a warranty.
How to remove a seller from my Amazon listing?
Amazon product pages belong to Amazon, and sellers can add themselves to a listing if they offer the exact same item. To remove a seller, you must submit a complaint to Amazon and state the reason for removal.