Amazon Suspected Intellectual Property Violations: What You Need to Know

By Brad Tucker / a few months ago
Amazon IP Complaints

We all know how unfortunately slow Amazon is to change. And when they finally do change something, it is usually done ahead of 20+ more serious concerns from sellers. Recently Amazon rolled out a change that almost no one was asking for, even though it does have a small degree of usability. This change is a new widget on the account health dashboard which shows “Suspected Intellectual Property” violations.

Amazon Suspected Intellectual Property Claim

Let’s take a look at why Amazon may have added this function for sellers, and what sellers can do to prevent these violations from escalating.

What Is Co Branding?

As with many Amazon actions, determining their rationale is somewhat speculative. To get an idea of how Amazon is currently using their new tool, we need to take a quick detour to talk about co-branding.

New Chrome Extension helps you avoid selling products that lead to ip complaints!

IP Alert is a brand new extension that shows which brands are making intellectual property complaints against resellers. No one should be without it!

New Chrome Extension helps you avoid selling products that lead to ip complaints!

IP Alert is a brand new extension that shows which brands are making intellectual property complaints against resellers. No one should be without it!

Co-branding is the act of marketing an item under two or more brand names. Brands pull their collective marketing and brand powers to drive sales of specialty items.

You probably use or have seen co-branded items in your day to day life without realizing it. Here are some pretty common examples:

1. Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer/Expedition (Out of Production). 

This product is manufactured by Ford, but it includes special trim and accoutrements for the distinguished Eddie Bauer customer

2. Soda Flavored Lip Balm

In this case, the manufacturer is Lip Smacker and the flavors and logos from the various soda brands are used with license. Customers are buying the exciting soda based flavors instead of the “original” or “cherry” type flavors that the lip balm brand makes on their own. 

3. Taco Bell and Doritos Assorted Items

Taco Bell is obviously the manufacturer, and Doritos in this case licenses their imagery and flavoring to be used on Taco Bell menu items. 

4.  Basically Any ‘Star Wars’ Item Ever

In this case the item is manufactured by Crocs, uses Star Wars logos and color schemes with license. Same idea can be applied to Star Wars Mountain Dew, Star Wars Legos, Star Wars Coffee Creamer, etc.

And probably the most common one that most of us use day to day…..

5. Co-Branded Credit Cards

Open up your wallet. Chances are you have a credit card for your favorite airline. Or maybe you belong to Sam’s Club, Costco, etc and have their credit card. That credit card is issued by a bank, and they had to obtain license to use Visa/Mastercard/Amex/etc logos and payment processing systems, as well as the logos and promotional IP for the store or airline

So What Does This Have To Do With Me?

Amazon unfortunately does not have any content available in seller central that outlines policies for co-branded items. But, they likely have internal policies for handling these items that are not made available to sellers.

In the case of Amazon and their new “Suspected Intellectual Property” violations tab, all the examples I have seen so far have been improperly set up listing detail pages for co-branded items.

Let’s take a look at some examples that have been reported so far (Note that some of these listings may have been taken off of the US marketplace since it is the largest and right now the only one known to receive these notices, but the listings may still exist on CA, UK, etc)

ASIN B00JIBUJPS. This item is a shower curtain. I don’t pretend to be the all knowing guru of shower curtain manufacturer’s, but let’s assume that this was manufactured by one of the big ones out there.

This product uses the terms “Mickey Mouse” and “Disney” item in the product title. This is incorrect and is the trigger for the “suspected” IP violation. The proper way to set this up would be to list the manufacturer of the curtain, and in the description indicate that it has Disney and Mickey Mouse logos on it.

Let’s take a look at another example. ASIN B00D8VHJDE.

This is board game manufactured by Hasbro, but it uses Disney characters and logos on all the pieces, cards, etc.

It is a suspected violation because the product title is incorrectly using “Disney” when it should just be Hasbro.

Both of these items are incorrectly using Disney IP in the branding of the listings.

Individual sellers may also be incorrectly using keywords, search terms, or other backend data which may be triggering the suspected violation.

Some of the listings I have seen are one off seasonal items. Or items that were duplicate listings that were not set up properly.

If I had to identify a reason for releasing this function, Amazon appears to be trying to purge items from the catalog and/or merge them with primary listings. I believe their AI is a little rusty to just do it automatically, so they’re pushing the semi-manual review to you to do instead of paying their staff to do it.

In the future they may expand the functions of this tool, but right now that is really the only value I see for it.

What Risk Is There? And What Can You Do?

So how dangerous are these notices and what is the risk here?

Right now, I think the risk of adverse action against your account is slim. I don’t believe Amazon has sent any sort of notice to the possible claimants making them aware of the listings, so unless these brands SOMEHOW find out about these listings and they decide to take action, you’ll probably be fine.

That being said, I would not ignore these messages. So what can you do?

We all tend to keep items in our inventory even if the item is out of stock or inactive. If you have these warnings, and the item is one that you’re never going to stock again, completely delete the item from your inventory, don’t just leave it inactive.

If the item is one that you sell more frequently or think you will stock again in the future, you’re going to need to take some action so Amazon sees you didn’t ignore the message.

Is this a co-branded item that is incorrectly branded? Change it. You find that there is a “more correct” duplicate listing? Open a case to merge it together and Amazon will prioritize the content visible on the listing and get it sorted out.

The worst thing you can do when getting a warning from Amazon is nothing.

If you still have trouble finding any content that potentially violates IP, either delete the listing to err on the side of caution, or contact seller support and see if they can give you any insight.

Right now, Amazon DOES NOT have a specific written policy that addresses co-branded items, so the more conservative options are probably best. Why on earth would Amazon create a policy that can be easily referenced? Its not like this an incredibly common scenario where we as a society have clearly come to understand some unwritten rules.

Maybe if Amazon starts to get flooded with questions about co-branded items they will eventually create a more direct policy for sellers to reference in the future.

This arena is unfortunately murky, but hopefully this helps shed some light on Amazon’s thinking and what you can do to prevent future adverse action.

About the author

    Brad Tucker

    4comments

    Leave a comment: