Amazon Sellers’ News 10/8/19: Intellectual Property Law for Amazon Sellers, Book Sellers Receiving Tons of IP Complaints, Suspensions Without Notice & Experienced Sellers Receiving Business Verification Requests
Amazon Sellers’ News 10/8/19
Intellectual property law 101 for sellers: the number of IP complaints that sellers are receiving is off the charts. There are basically four basic types of intellectual property law, only three of which really pertain to sellers in any volume at all. Trademark, which means you can’t take somebody else’s logo and stick it on your product. It also includes the first sale doctrine, which means you can’t deliver a product that has any material differences than as if the manufacturer delivered it. Trademark. Don’t take somebody else’s logo, stick it on your t-shirt. Copyright law. When it comes to sellers, copyright pertains to verbiage. You can’t copy and paste somebody else’s verbiage, their description or their warranty. And it goes to images. You can’t use somebody else’s images and create your own listing, or use somebody else’s images on your product. Patent law, or in the UK, patent law, has design patents and utility patents. Design patents pertain to how the product looks. How many zippers, how many pockets, how much it expands. It’s how the product looks. Utility patents pertain to inventions, how the product functions. Last but not least it’s a trade dress. Trade dress is the least enforced type of intellectual property law on Amazon. It does happen, but it’s very rare. Trade dress is the entire package, color, texture, feel, use. It is the whole thing, the whole conglomerate that makes that product unique. The easiest thing to identify when it comes to trade dress is the Coca-Cola bottle. That really svelte looking bottle, that is classic trade dress, or Brain Flakes toys, or the makeup sponge that’s sort of the shape of an egg and fuchsia color. That’s all a trade dress. So trademark, copyright, patent, utility and design, trade dress.
Booksellers are suddenly on the receiving end of a ton of intellectual property rights complaints. Textbook sellers have been subject to litigation for years by the ONZ law firm who represents Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson. And the problem was that booksellers were ending up with books from India where their dye comes from, and the books were better than the genuine books. And that was very hard for sellers to tell which was which, since the counterfeit ones were actually better. But now we’re seeing nonfiction authors getting dinged with IP complaints. And if you’re a Kindle author, give me a call. We’ve handled a lot of Kindle cases, and I could give you a lot of guidance from our cases on things you need to avoid if you’re a Kindle author.
Suspensions without any notice are also on the rise. I wouldn’t say a dramatic rise, but a lot of sellers around the country and around the world are receiving a notice that your account is suspended, your money’s going to be held while we do an investigation, and you have no idea why. The way we handle those is we write a very generic plan of action. If we cannot figure out what caused your suspension, then we try and get a response from Amazon indicating what the issue is, and we usually successful. Also, follow Amazon’s leadership principles. Do a deep dive and try and figure it out yourself. Try and find out what issue Amazon has with you or what issues consumers might have with you, where they complain to Amazon and Amazon not letting you know.
Business verification for experienced sellers: we’ve been talking about this for a few days now. Amazon is asking more and more and more experienced sellers for documents pertaining to their location, their bank account, their identity, even asking for the silly utility bill. So sellers all over the world – be ready to provide your documents to Amazon. It’s in your new terms of service. If anyone is writing a plan of action for you, they need to know what the new contract says.