Sellers – act now to avoid being kicked off Amazon
At present, another Amazon seller can trademark your brand and then stop you from using it on Amazon. How much would that cost you in lost sales? What would happen to your business?
That’s right – if you wanted to continue selling on Amazon, you’d have to start over from scratch.
So if you’re serious about making money on Amazon, then you must trademark your brand and enrol on the Amazon Brand Registry.
In this article, we’ll explain how the Amazon Brand Registry works, and provide some tips about dealing with the necessary trade mark issues.
AMAZON BRAND REGISTRY
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE (2021)
The Amazon Brand Registry has become an essential service for serious Amazon sellers.
The most important benefit you’ll get is that it gives you much stronger protections from unethical competitors on Amazon.
However, to list your products on the Amazon Brand Registry, you must have a trade mark that’s been officially registered under law by one of Amazon’s designated government Trade Marks Offices.
The Australian Trade Marks Office is a particularly good option. Not just for local businesses but also for overseas Amazon sellers whose main concern is simply to meet the Brand Registry Requirement.
Trade mark registration in Australia is generally less expensive and often faster. You may also find that there is less competition for your brand names.
Here at Acorn Trade Mark Attorneys, we have created a special Amazon trade mark registration offer for businesses that want to enrol in the Amazon Brand Registry.
Special trade mark offer: $499 plus government fees and tax. Avoid having your brand hijacked. Fight off Amazon copycats.
Simply tell us about the brand or logo you’d like to trademark, and we’ll get back to you with some advice about the best way forward.
Details About The Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon is tightening up its marketplace. And for those smart sellers who use it, the Amazon Brand Registry now gives brand owners more clear ownership of their trademarked brand names. Simply put, you provide them with the registered trade mark number and they’ll check your details. Then they recognise you as the sole legitimate user of that brand on the Amazon platform.
You also get much more control over your product listings. And you’ll get access to powerful tools that will help you protect your brands.
For example, you’ll be able to search for potentially counterfeit goods on the Amazon website using their proprietary search tools. You can easily look up how your brand name and images are being used.
If need be, you can then ask Amazon’s dedicated Brand Registry enforcement team to deal with infringements by other vendors on the Amazon platform.
The key requirement is that Amazon insists that you have a trade mark in the relevant country before they’ll add your brand to their registry.
Amazon has created its Brand Registry to help sellers like you protect your brands.
That’s because Amazon’s online sellers have been facing an increasing number of challenges in recent years. There’s now a need to continually monitor your product listings, along with the potentially huge number of similar offerings from competitors.
In some cases, sellers have also had to contend with competitors maliciously amending their product details.
Most importantly, there’s the ever-present need to protect your brand against cheap knockoffs and outright counterfeits.
The updated Amazon Brand Registry now provides you with much more control over your brands – if you enrol.
Get protection against unethical Amazon sellers
Under Amazon’s new rules, they’ll work with you to stop trade mark violations by counterfeit sellers. For Amazon Brand Registry users, there is now a separate team to help you submit and escalate issues with your brand.
Enforcing your brand is easier, because Amazon’s support team will shut down infringers more quickly. It’s much more efficient than court proceedings.
Stop counterfeiters with ‘gating’
When your brands become ‘gated’ under the Amazon Brand Registry, it means that any seller who wants to sell your branded products will have to come and seek permission directly from you. It’s another way to help prevent counterfeiters from undermining you on Amazon by selling knock-offs or discounting your products.
Prevent your brand being hijacked on Amazon
It seems increasingly likely that any successful Amazon seller is going to face unfair competition. So it’s wise to take early steps to protect your brand on Amazon.
To stop brand hijacking, you’ll need to get in early by registering a trade mark and submitting it to Amazon. Once that’s been done, Amazon will block others from registering the same trade mark, pretending to be your business and blocking you from using the platform. Don’t let an unethical seller get there first.
Even if you choose not to sell any products on Amazon, it’s still prudent to lock down the brand name and the content for all your branded goods.
For a start, that’s a positive way to make sure all product references in common sales channels are high-quality and consistent.
On the other hand, signing up for the Amazon Brand Registry also makes it harder for an unauthorized reseller to poach your buyers. Resellers can undermine your ‘outside’ sales with product listings that are mispriced, inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent with your branding.
Use new search tools. . .
It’s now easier for Amazon Brand Registry participants to do their own searches with their user-friendly search tool. It allows brand owners to check the Amazon website for potentially counterfeit goods.
You can even search across different Amazon stores without having to constantly switch from screen to screen.
As part of this, you can find product listings that have ‘borrowed’ images from your own products or logos.
You can also run a bulk search to generate a list of ASINs or product URLs that may be infringing your content. Then you simply report the relevant ones.
. . . including really helpful predictive search tools
The Amazon Brand Registry also introduced an automated protection system to remove content may be infringing your registered brand. This draws on any reports you’ve made about suspected infringements or counterfeit goods.
Amazon’s predictive search tools will identify images that do include your logo, but which aren’t for products that match your brand name.
The predictive search tools will also identify sellers who are shipping products from countries where your goods aren’t manufactured or distributed.
And once you’ve listed your full product catalogue on Amazon, the tools will identify anyone else who tries to add another product with your brand.
Insure your business against Amazon’s arbitrary decisions
Amazon does compete with its own sellers.
And Amazon is also very capricious when it comes to shutting down sellers.
You still can’t stop this.
But you can take steps to ensure that your work on Amazon also helps build your non-Amazon business. That way you’ve still got a strong Plan B, another sales channel if things go wrong on Amazon.
The key to this is to sell branded products.
A strong brand allows you to sell on value and reputation, not on price. That’s the only way you can defend yourself if Amazon goes into business against you on their own platform.
And the way to protect a strong brand is with a registered trade mark. It gives you the confidence to invest long-term in that brand. Because you know that you have the exclusive right to the trademarked name.
In the end, Amazon isn’t just a sales channel. It’s also a communication and advertising channel. So doing well on Amazon will make your brand stronger and increase the value of your related trade mark rights. This will be very useful to you if Amazon decides to make life difficult.
Lock your listing against unauthorised editing
Believe it or not, your ‘ordinary’ private label / third party product listings can be hacked by other sellers.
One way is for them to suggest edits to your listing. They can also falsely report ‘incorrect’ details through the link Amazon conveniently provides.
However, the main (and most frustrating) way other sellers can hack a listing is by offering your product for sale, and then making back-end changes to your listing page.
So when you sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry, your listings will be locked. Access is limited to you and to Amazon itself. This stops malicious editing of your titles, descriptions, bullets and images.
Start using Enhanced Brand Content
Enhanced Brand Content (also known as EBC or A+) allows you to create a much more appealing Amazon listing. It’s much better than the boring options if you’re not on the Amazon Brand Registry.
It’s especially useful on mobile, where most Amazon buyers do their shopping.
Plus, it will help improve your Amazon SEO. You’re allowed more words and characters per listing. That means your product can be indexed and ranked for more SEO keywords.
Use the Amazon Early Reviewer Program
Getting a new product reviewed is a constant challenge for Amazon sellers. And low numbers of ratings generally amounts to low numbers of sales.
Amazon has nevertheless made it increasingly difficult for ordinary sellers to encourage reviews.
Now, with the Early Reviewer Program, you finally have a way to work around this. You can get up to five quick, honest reviews from verified buyers of your products.
There’s a modest fee, but many sellers are satisfied with the trade-off.
Create custom brand and product showcase pages
When you enrol on the brand registry, you get to use custom showcase pages (eg brand listing pages / brand detail pages). These allow you to do a much more effective job of visually marketing your brand and your products.
Apart from being able to customise text and images, you can also insert videos.
As a side benefit, you’ll get better analytics to monitor your customer traffic. For example, you can set up the system to show you whether your leads are coming from Facebook Ads, etc.
In short, you need a trade mark that’s already registered in one of the accepted countries (details below).
Under the old rules, the only requirement was that you needed to own your brand’s domain name, and provide evidence of your brand packaging. That’s all changed. If you signed up under the old rules, your registration is no longer valid.
The new Amazon Brand Registry trademark requirements are much more rigorous. You’ll need to meet the following criteria:
- own a registered trade mark;
- which must include words, letters or numbers (an image without words will not be accepted by Amazon); and
- the trade mark must have been granted in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the UK, or the USA.
You’ll also need to provide:
- your trade mark’s registration number;
- a list of the goods that will be sold on Amazon using that trade mark;
- a list of countries where you will manufacture and distribute your goods; and, possibly
- images of your products and/or packaging, showing your trade mark (the trade mark must match the brand printed on the products / packaging); and
- images of the brand’s logo, if relevant.
Once you’ve successfully registered your trade mark, you’ll need to visit the relevant Amazon Brand Registry Application page. There is a different page for each of the designated countries, so you’ll have to apply for the Amazon Brand Registry in each marketplace you sell in.
You can find the Australian brand registry here. Either sign in using your regular Amazon account, or create a new account online.
This issue goes beyond the Amazon Brand Registry, but it’s an important one to address.
In short, you’d be wise to consult a trade mark attorney about this question.
The answer you get will depend on the brand you propose to use, the nature of your goods, and the trade marks that are already registered in a given country.
Since 2020, you can no longer use your registered ‘local’ trade mark to apply for Amazon Brand Registry in any of the other participating Amazon marketplaces. Amazon will require you to have a trade mark for each country in which you wish them to register your brand.
If someone has already trademarked your brand in one of those countries, you may end up accidentally infringing on it.
To avoid that risk, you’ll need to consider filing separate trade mark applications in those jurisdictions.
This is a challenge for all Amazon sellers. Which is why you should always consult a trade mark attorney before selling on Amazon overseas.
From the government. . .
Remember, the Amazon Brand Registry is not the same as an official government trade mark registry. You need a trade mark to get on Amazon’s registry, but you can’t get one from their registry. So your first step is to apply for a registered trade mark from an official government IP office such as IP Australia.
. . . with help from a trade mark attorney
The easiest way to get your Amazon trademark registration is to engage a trade mark attorney. Trade mark attorneys are registered with (and recognised by) the Australian government. They’re specially qualified to do trade marks work.
A registered trade mark attorney can help you with trade mark advice, trade mark searches, and registering a trade mark in Australia. That increases your prospects of successfully registering your mark. It also saves you valuable time. And engaging a trade mark attorney will greatly reduce the risk of you making a mistake and losing your unrefundable government fees.
Most trade mark attorneys offer other related services as well. For example, they’ll usually be able to offer advice and help in resolving trade mark infringement and enforcement matters.
Once your trade mark’s granted, it is valid from the day you originally applied (in other words, it’s backdated to the application date). Remember, though, that because of treaty obligations the government will generally take 7.5 months to complete the registration process.
That’s why it’s important not to procrastinate. If you do intend to register an Amazon Brand Registry trademark, please contact us today.
In practical terms, your main concern may be simply to get enrolled on the Amazon Brand Registry. If so, then an Australian trade mark will serve you well. Australia has low fees and is faster to grant a trade mark than many other jurisdictions. Importantly, Australia has relatively less competition from existing brand owners. So if someone has already registered a trade mark for your brand in the USA or the UK, you may still be able to register in Australia.
You’d start by registering a trade mark in Australia for your brand. Then you can use your Australian trade mark to apply to the Amazon Brand Registries in (for example) Australia, the US and the UK .
Because you’re selling through Amazon, you potentially have a global market. This makes trade mark registration a potentially tricky matter. Each additional jurisdiction you file in will cost you an additional government trade mark fee. So registering a trade mark in every country is almost sure to be out of financial reach. Especially if you have a new company or product line. You’ll need to prioritise, balance the risks and make some (sensible) compromises.
That said, it’s still best practice to register a trade mark wherever you’re selling your goods. That stops other businesses in those countries from using your brand. It also helps make sure you aren’t accidentally infringing an existing trade mark that’s already registered in another country.
The critical issue
The critical place to register a mark is wherever your biggest markets are. If losing a given market would badly affect your business, you should apply for a trade mark there. For example, many Australian-based Amazon vendors find that most of their sales are in Australia, the US and the UK. If that sounds like your business, then it’s prudent to register trade marks in those countries. On the other hand, you may see only random sales in (say) New Zealand. Losing a small market like that might make little difference to your business. The cost of registering a trade mark there may not be worth it.
A last thought – are you just starting out? If so, you can still register in Australia and then use that later as a springboard to extend your trade mark overseas. It’s best to apply overseas within six months of filing your Australian mark. That way you’ll get the same start date for all of the trademarks (ie a longer period of protection).
Regrettably, there is no such thing as an international trade mark. But there are a few different ways to apply for a trade mark overseas:
- directly, to each country; or
- through the Madrid Protocol (ie under international treaty).
Filing through the Madrid Protocol is generally the easiest way. There are a few rules that apply if you want to take that approach:
- the countries in which you want to register your trade mark must have signed the treaty
- note: all the countries approved for the Amazon Brand Registry are parties to the Madrid Protocol, including Canada from 17 June 2019;
- you’ll need to have already filed a national application upon which to base your Madrid Protocol application;
- the mark and the classification (ie the goods or services that your trade mark will apply to) must be the same on your international application as they are on your national application; and
- likewise, the ‘legal personality’ named as applicant must be the same on both the domestic and the international application.
Once you apply for your original trade mark in the original country, you have six months to apply through the Madrid Protocol to obtain the same filing date as your original application.
For further information concerning the Amazon Brand Registry and how we can help with international trade mark applications, please use the contact form below.
Short answer: before someone beats you to it!
In the best of all possible worlds, you’d have your trade marks registered before you began to trade. We understand that in many cases this just isn’t practicable. [It is very wise to do a trade mark search before you commit to a brand, and we can help with that right now.]
Thinking pragmatically, and being mindful of the risks, you may find it most practical to apply for your trade mark, and let that process go on in the background. Then you can focus on generating sales, building your brand, improving your SERP rankings, and generating some positive reviews.
Later, when your trade mark is officially registered, you can apply for the Amazon Brand Registry.
Remember, it’s not a requirement to be on the Amazon Brand Registry before you can sell your product on their platform. It’s just a very good idea. One that will protect you from brand hijackers and counterfeiters. Plus, it will give you greater control over how your products are sold on Amazon.
Once your brand is enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry, you’re entitled to submit a report via the Report a Violation (RAV) tool.
Anyone can report an alleged trade mark infringement via Amazon’s public report form. You don’t even need an Amazon account to report infringement through this avenue to Amazon.
HOW CAN ACORN TRADE MARKS ATTORNEYS HELP ME?
If you’re planning to sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry, we can help with quick, easy and budget-friendly trade mark services in Australia. And if your only concern is getting on the Amazon Brand Registry, we’ve created special something just for you:
If you’re trading abroad or considering an overseas expansion, our trade mark attorneys are also able to help you by searching the relevant trade mark databases and filing applications.
Naturally we’re willing to have a chat about any other questions you might have about trade mark searches. If so, fill in the form below, and we’ll get back to you directly.