IP law on Amazon

Baseless IP complaints are constantly filed on the Amazon platform, and sellers who were once left without recourse now have a route to reinstatement.

It seems that Amazon has ditched its old policy of instantly suspending sellers accused of intellectual property violations, and replaced it with a system that actually makes sense; not just for Amazon, but for everyone.

Amazon has finally started contacting sellers accused of IP violations to offer them the opportunity to prove that a complaint made against them was baseless. This means that Amazon sellers will no longer be forced to deal with those (often hostile competitors) who have filed these baseless complaints against them before they are able to get reinstated.

At Rosenbaum Famularo, PC, we constantly deal with intellectual property (IP) issues on the Amazon platform.

Intellectual property law can be extremely complicated to the average person and includes copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade dress.

Often, our seller clients become victims of those (often competitors) who maliciously take advantage of the way Amazon enforces IP complaints. Until recently, if an IP complaint was made against your seller account, your selling privileges would be automatically removed until you were able to communicate with the rights owner and convince them to remove their complaint against you, with limited exceptions.

On a few occasions, we have been successful getting sellers reinstated on Amazon even though the complainant did not remove their complaint. However, Amazon typically did not care whether the complaint was valid or baseless.

IP complaint disputes on Amazon

Sellers are forced to fight a suspension either way once an IP claim is filed against them.

Now, sellers have an opportunity to fight back against baseless claims after years of injustice. Amazon has recognized that even though this policy was designed to protect buyers – the customer – that the repercussions had too grave of an effect on sellers and thus needed to be changed.

So many of our clients have been forced to appeal suspensions because of a competitor’s baseless complaint. Whether a client had to fight a baseless complaint for two days or two weeks, business was lost, and in turn profits were lost as well. This is unacceptable. As a seller who knows they have not done anything wrong, it is infuriating to be forced to sit back and watch a competitor steal your business while your only chance at recourse is to deal with the seller who filed the baseless complaint in the first place.

At Rosenbaum Famularo, PC, the law firm behind AmazonSellersLawyer.com, we experienced this injustice first hand. In some instances, our clients faced baseless complaints from rights owners who intentionally refused to communicate. Our only method of recourse when this happened was to threaten or file lawsuits on behalf of our clients. But who wants to spend the time and money needed to go to court when someone has made a bogus claim about your business?

Thankfully, Amazon may finally have implemented a policy change and a glimmer of hope for the honest seller.

Some of our clients have forwarded us emails from Seller Central after receiving IP complaints that state the following:

You currently may not sell on Amazon.com because of rights owner complaints about items that may be inauthentic… Funds in your seller account will not be available for disbursement while we work with you to address this issue. You have 90 days to appeal this decision. You can appeal in two ways: First, you can ask the rights owner to withdraw their complaint. Second, you can provide evidence that the items you sold are authentic. If you believe the rights owner reported in error because you can verify the authenticity of your items, reply to this email with the following information for each ASIN: (1) Copies of invoices or receipts from your supplier issued in the last 365 days. These should reflect your sales during that time; and (2) Contact information for you supplier, including name, phone number, address, and website. If we are unable to determine that the reported items are authentic, we will permanently hold funds from the sale of these items.

It seems that Amazon has finally appointed a “Gate-Keeper” or “Watchdog” to screen out these baseless and unwarranted complaints. Maybe Amazon realized that its own policy was being abused to such an extent by these competing sellers that the policy was actually causing them to lose revenue from lost third party sales. Maybe Amazon just finally decided to do the right thing for buyers and sellers alike. Most importantly though, sellers are no longer left without fair judgment when a complaint is filed against them, and now have a route to reinstatement that does not involve arguing with the rights owner who filed the baseless complaint against them in the first place.

This change is ground breaking, and is way overdue. Amazon has provided the route to reinstatement, but it is up to you to follow it and make sure that you get there. This however, is no simple task; IP law is one of the most in depth and complex areas of the law, and we recommend hiring a knowledgeable attorney in the area before delving into any self-help with these types of issues.

Now, more than ever, sellers need to use lawyers with experience in handling both IP issues as well as dealing with Amazon in order to defend themselves against baseless IP complaints.

The defense is two-fold, and requires accuracy and efficiency: first you will need to explain to notice-dispute@amazon.com that the complaint is baseless, and then why.  This will not only require knowledge of IP law, but specific knowledge regarding each individual area of IP law. If the complaint is for a copyright violation, you will need to address copyright law specifically, and the same goes for trademark, patent or trade dress issues.

First you will need to explain what patent, trademark, or copyright law is, and then explain how you do not violate the law by providing legal analysis as well as your invoices and distributor information. Having a lawyer handle this issue from the start will ultimately save you time and stress in the long run. In reality, Amazon does not really care about the average third party seller. Their focus is on their bottom line and maximizing profits. A simple mistake dealing with an intellectual property issue could cost you your business, but Amazon would not bat an eyelash of concern for you. The focus for Amazon is on the customer and the customer only; a policy that may backfire if no one is left to sell on the platform.

Amazon is only just beginning to provide this alternate route for responding to IP complaints, and has been brutally strict with enforcement in the past. It is imperative to respond to quickly, and with accurate information in order to get back up and selling as soon as possible and avoid making any potential mistakes. At Rosenbaum Famularo, PC, we are here to help guide you down that route.

To sum it all up, Amazon is clearly changing. Intellectual property issues are one of, if not the most, prevalent issues that our Amazon seller clients face on a daily basis. We are finally seeing a glimmer of hope that will allow sellers to fight back against baseless complaints and it is time to capitalize on this opportunity.

If sellers stand strong and use this new policy to defend against baseless complaints, we may be able to stop them entirely by eliminating their purpose and function.

IP Complaint Disputes on Amazon

If baseless complaints can be rebutted, we must continue to fight them until those who maliciously file them no longer see the point in doing so.

Now that you are armed with this information, you do not need to waste time stressing out if a rights owner will not remove their complaint against you. You have been given the opportunity after years of injustice, to provide proof directly to Amazon that your products do not infringe any intellectual property rights.

Your invoices and business records, coupled with the assistance of an experienced attorney will prove to be priceless tools in remaining a top competitor on the Amazon platform.