The competition on Amazon can be overwhelming. Over 200,000 new sellers joined the platform in 2020, taking the number of active sellers to over 1.9 million. Unfortunately, not all these sellers are honest. Copying is a major challenge on the platform. Unscrupulous sellers brazenly copy product ideas, logos, images, and brand names in an attempt to fool customers. Copycat products result in lost sales and lower customer trust. Confused customers, unhappy with the imitation product quality, may end up blaming your brand for their experience!
Thankfully, Amazon has a system in place to stop infringement and protect your intellectual property. In this article, we’ll explore copyright laws, how to report copyright infringement, and what you can do if someone lodges a fake copyright complaint against your brand.
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What Is Copyright in Ecommerce?
People often use copyright as a catch-all for legally protected names, designs, and products. Together, these are called a brand’s intellectual properties (IP). However, the legal system looks at copyright in more specific terms. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
- Copyrights are the exclusive rights you have to text, images, songs, or books you create
- Trademarks protect words, phrases, and designs that identify your business.
- Patents cover technical features like machine designs or product ingredients.
Three different terms — but they all share the purpose of blocking people from using your IP without permission. Ecommerce sellers specifically come under the purview of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Act guarantees access to a copyright infringement reporting system to all ecommerce owners.
What Are Copyright Rules on Amazon?
Since the retailer falls under the DMCA’s authority, so you get access to a notice-and-takedown system as a seller. You can take action to stop anyone who copies your product ideas, images, product descriptions, logos, packaging design, or anything else that comes under DMCA IP protection rules. Amazon’s infringement policy has two categories: Marketplace rules and Kindle Direct Publishing rules.
Marketplace Infringement Rules
Amazon enforces a general infringement policy on the Marketplace for third-party sellers. It protects the copyright, trademark, and patent concerns of products you sell as a third-party retailer. For example, let’s say you sell t-shirts with a trademarked design, and you find a copycat. You can notify the company and get the stolen product removed.
However, Amazon doesn’t enforce distribution licenses. You may have an agreement to exclusively or selectively distribute products that someone else has copyright to. Violations of that agreement don’t count as IP infringement. That’s a problem for you and your licensor to resolve. For instance, let’s say you have distribution rights in the USA for a washing machine of a large global brand. Someone else also starts selling the same washing machine on the platform. Amazon will not consider that a valid infringement.
Kindle Direct Publishing Infringement Rules
Kindle Direct Publishing is an independent book publisher system. You must hold publishing rights to distribute content through the system. You might have to confirm IP ownership with various legal documents. Amazon can close your account if you upload content you can’t legally distribute.
How Does Amazon Protect Your Copyrights?
Generally, Amazon scans the marketplace for violations like counterfeit goods or co-opted business names. For example:
- It doesn’t let sellers use logos they don’t own to show compatibility (you can’t use Apple’s logo in your iPhone charger listing).
- It monitors listings for copyrighted images — you must own the copyright to use a product image.
Amazon has a system to defend your intellectual property — but the first line of defense is you.
1. Protecting Yourself
Firstly, as an ecommerce business owner, you should take your own brand seriously. You should register your work with the US Copyrights Office and apply for a trademark number from the United States Patents and Trademark Office(USPTO). Then you must continuously monitor the platform for unauthorized resellers of your products. You can use the Listing Alerts tool to keep tabs on competitor listings. The tool sends automatic alerts if it notices any infringement.
2. Amazon Brand Registry
Filing complaints yourself is one of the best ways to stop copyright and trademark infringement on Amazon before it gets out of hand. But it’s not all on you. With Brand Registry, the company monitors your IP security in the background. You can add your brand to it’s official registry for free if you have a trademark registered with an eligible government office. More than 20 government offices are eligible, including those of:
- The United States
- The European Union
- The United Kingdom
Amazon Brand Registry blocks illegal product listings before they ever reach customers. It also tracks other intellectual properties to protect your brand. Registered brands get an easy report system to flag listings that might violate their rights.
3. Report Infringement System
You have access to the Report Infringement system whether or not you officially registered your brand with Amazon. The system is intended for use only by intellectual property rights owners and agents. If you notice another seller copying a brand other than yours, you can report them through Seller Central Support.
It’s important to note that the reporting system isn’t as comprehensive. You should prioritize joining Brand Registry for easier monitoring.
How to Report Copyright and Trademark Infringement on Amazon
If someone steals your IP, you’ll have to file a report. The reporting process depends on whether or not you registered with Brand Registry.
Reporting through Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry automatically inspects nearly 5 billion listing updates daily to stop infringement before it happens. But if your IP is still compromised, you can report it manually.
You are assigned an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) to each product. This code helps identify the product within the company’s massive catalog. To review copyright infringement, Amazon needs the ASIN of the violating product. You can find it under the listing’s Product information section.
- Log into the Brand Registry dashboard.
- On the menu, hover your mouse over Protect, then select Report a violation.
- Amazon will ask you to identify the intellectual property violation. To find a new copyright infringement, Amazon lets you search by product name, listing and brand info, or product image.
- After searching, you’ll see a list of products related to your intellectual property. Remember that many of the listed products will probably be your own legitimate listings.
- Select the relevant listing.
- Click Select issue type at the top of the dashboard.
- Choose the relevant infringement from the dropdown menu. Remember that copyright is a broad term. Your situation may involve a patent violation, copyright infringement, or trademark infringement.
- Amazon will ask you to clarify the issue depending on the type of infringement. For example, a trademark infringement might mean the product packaging illegally uses your logo. Select the best option for your situation.
- Using the dropdown menu, select the infringed brand.
- Amazon will ask you to write a statement detailing the case. Include info like the ASIN and details about the offending product. Also include details about your specific trademark, copyright, or patent. Make sure to explain what aspects of the offending product/business violate your IP rights.
Amazon will evaluate your complaint and decide which party is in the right.
Reporting through The Report Infringement System
When you file complaints with the Report Infringement system, Amazon requires specific info to verify that you’re the IP owner.
- Go to the Infringement Report dashboard and sign into your seller account.
- Choose whether you are the rights owner or an agent representing the owner.
- Select your primary complaint from the dropdown menu. Your complaint will depend on the offending product listing. For example, choose unauthorized use of copyrighted material if someone is using your copyrighted pictures or text.
- Next, pick the specific concern. For example, indicate if the physical product or the product listing violates your IP rights.
- Enter your brand name.
- Provide a written description of the copyrighted work or provide a link, then add any additional information you’d like to include.
- Add the product’s ASIN and choose ASIN/ISBN-10 from the Scope dropdown menu.
- Add your contact info.
- Select whether or not you’re an Amazon seller (non-sellers can report copyright violations too).
- Click Submit.
Amazon will review your complaint and decide what action to take. That could include removing the product listing and applying a strike to the offending seller account.
Someone Submitted A False Claim of Copyright Infringement against Me
Amazon will notify you if someone files an infringement claim against your account. Copyright, patent, and trademark infringement on Amazon are very serious and could require help from a lawyer. But there’s no need to panic. In most cases, you’ll have a chance to address the possible infringement and avoid further issues.
Amazon usually provides contact information for the person filing the complaint. In many cases, you should contact the filer directly to resolve the issue. They can retract the claim if you agree on a solution. If you can’t resolve the claim with the filer, you’ll need to provide a counter-notice.
Providing A Counter-Notice
A counter-notice is an official claim that you are not in violation of IP rights. Counter-notices are legal documents. You should always consult a legal expert when making one. After submitting your counter-notice, the party who filed the original infringement claim can review it. They will have the chance to file a lawsuit against you to move forward with their claim. If they don’t file a lawsuit within 14 business days, Amazon will begin the process of restoring your content.
How To Remove a Copyright Strike on Amazon
Your account will receive a strike if Amazon determines that you violated a copyright. As you probably guessed, it’s always better to avoid strikes before they ever happen. That’s why the Listing Quality Check tool is so important. Use it to avoid any listing issues and ensure you’re following all guidelines. You’ll thank yourself later.
If a strike still happens, you should work directly with the filer to have the claim retracted. Otherwise, you’ll need to file a counter-notice. Amazon will only remove the strike if your counter-notice is successful.
Amazon is a crammed market, but you can still safeguard your IP by getting ahead of the issue. Be aware of your copyrights and begin the process of securing legal trademarks and patent protection as soon as possible. Get onto Brand Registry and use Semrush’s free monitoring tools to constantly watch over your product listings. The onus is on you to report infringements you notice.
If you are careless about the issue, a copycat might file a notice against you. You’ll then have no other option except a legal recourse to issue a counter notice and get Amazon to take off the strike against your account. To avoid future legal fees and hassles, don’t wait around for another seller to steal all your hard work. Be bright about your copyrights!
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Amazon Brand Registry is an important tool that all sellers should use to protect their copyrights on the platform. Read our Amazon Brand Registry Guide to learn more about this program and the benefits it brings!