25.04.2023 | by Lili
In today’s e-Commerce environment, IP infringements are quite a common occurrence, which is why marketplaces have introduced procedures for right owners to defend their rights. Upon encountering an infringing listing, brands and online brand protection experts can submit a claim to the marketplace in question and demand the removal of the fake listing.
But what if it’s not the listing but the claim that is fake?
Amazon has an answer to that.
Anything can be faked, even IP infringement claims. This is what Amazon realised when they discovered that several people acting in bad faith tried to remove perfectly legitimate listings from the marketplace. The fraudsters claimed that the listings in question infringed upon their copyright - however, that wasn’t true. Moreover, they didn’t even hold the copyrights in the first place.
Why would anyone do that? Well, forcibly removing competing listings from the marketplace elevates your chances of being spotted by customers. Also, giving trouble to your competitors redirects their focus and while they’re busy clearing their name, you can sail ahead - possibly with your own infringing listings.
Funnily enough, this approach is exactly what we follow for our clients, just the other way around. Where fraudsters try to remove legitimate listings with deception, we enforce your rights and clean the marketplace from infringing, fraudulent listings that damage your brand.
The recipe for this fraud is simple. Fraudulent users created fake websites and filled each one with product images copied from Amazon. Then they registered in the marketplace’s Brand Registry and filed thousands of claims against various legitimate Amazon sellers, using the fake websites as evidence that they were the rightful owners of the copyrights.
Screenshot of brandservices.amazon.com
Luckily, Amazon realised what was going on and took drastic action against these fraudsters to protect its honest sellers and customers. The e-Commerce giant filed three lawsuits (case numbers 2:23-cv-00484, 2:23-cv-00485 and 2:23-cv-00486) in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Since the cases are new and ongoing, there’s no current information about the state of the trials. We’ll keep an eye on the issue and will report back here if there’s new information.
These lawsuits are the first such steps the Amazon Counterfeit Crime Unit (CCU) has taken against fake IP infringement claims.
But what is the CCU, and how does it help your brand?
Created to fight IP infringing fake goods, the CCU’s aim is to stop counterfeiters, “defend the rights of brand owners and protect customers from counterfeit products.”
The CCU works closely with brands, rights owners and brand protection experts to identify infringing listings and remove them from Amazon, possibly even before they hit the marketplace. To this end, they collect information from brands, investigate claims and forward information to law enforcement in order to aid brands in their eventual lawsuits against fraudsters.
The marketplace’s 2022 Brand Protection Report states that Amazon invested over $1.2 billion in its IP protection efforts and employed around 15,000 people to help protect its sellers and customers from fraudsters. Thanks to these efforts, the marketplace has gotten rid of 6 million fake products and prevented 99% of fishy listings from being published at all.
Amazon doesn’t shy away from lawsuits either; the marketplace was involved in over 1,300 cases in 2022 to help bring fraudsters to justice. For example, Amazon and business technology provider Brother are suing a group of criminals in Germany that sold fake toner cartridges as original Brother products on the marketplace.
Brands wishing to make the most of the CCU have to fulfil two basic criteria:
- Be enrolled in the Brand Registry,
- Recognise a counterfeit listing of your product available on Amazon.
Amazon’s Brand Registry is a free tool that aims to help you protect your IP rights on the platform. Once you register, Amazon’s machine learning technology provides predictive protection that recognises a bad listing infringing on your registered IP rights and prevents it from being published on the marketplace.
To be eligible, your brand must fulfil certain criteria. For example, you have to have an active registered trademark in the country or countries you wish to enrol in the program in. Furthermore, your trademark has to be either text-based or image based with words, letters or numbers.
Screenshot of https://brandservices.amazon.com/brandregistry/eligibility displaying the eligibility criteria of Amazon’s Brand Registry
Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you must submit basic information like your brand name, contact info, trademark registration number and product categories that apply to you. Amazon then examines your application to determine if you are indeed the rights owner and if you fulfilled all criteria, your enrollment is complete.
Amazon’s tools are certainly very helpful when it comes to the fight against counterfeits and other IP infringements on the platform. However, all those extra tasks that come with protecting your IP rights, like checking the marketplace regularly for infringing listings may sound a bit overwhelming. This is especially true for brands that don’t have large in-house IP protection units whose job is to check for IP infringements 24/7.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of Amazon’s IP protection tools. All you need to do is get in touch with us.
We at globaleyez welcome every effort that contributes to the safeguarding of IP rights both on- and offline. Therefore, we’re very pleased to see Amazon going the extra mile and engaging in lawsuits on behalf of its selling partners and customers.
As a long-time partner of Amazon, we have already been using the platform’s various IP protection tools with considerable success. Our efforts are geared towards the detection and elimination of content (e.g. websites, marketplace listings, pictures, etc.) that infringes on our clients IP rights.
For example, our marketplace monitoring service is perfect for detecting infringing listings on over 150 global and niche online marketplaces. Our image monitoring service, on the other hand, discovers stolen and copied imagery, including product pictures anywhere on the internet. Finally, our enforcement service ensures that the infringing content is removed from the internet as soon as possible.
In cases like the one described above, these services are essential to detect fake websites and debunk fraudsters’ claims. In addition, since infringing content is removed from marketplaces and the internet in general, your genuine product listings benefit from a clean marketplace appearance free from any distorting fraudulent images and product listings.
Amazon’s lawsuits signal a new approach to battling IP infringing fraudsters in e-Commerce. We’re looking forward to the benefits this may bring for brands. Nevertheless, lawsuits like these don’t mean it’s time to stop worrying about IP infringements altogether.
If you want to ensure your brand’s IP rights are protected both on- and offline, contact us and let us know how we can assist you.