Most Copyright Infringement cases on Amazon are resolved effectively.
Expert Advice: Don’t panic, keep Selling
The more you sell, the more possible that you will one day get a notice through Amazon’s message center informing you that you are in violation of someone’s copyright. The notice will often imply or directly declare that legal action is pending if you don’t remove your listing instantly.
What to do? Savvy independent third-party Amazon sellers know that some of these are all threatened and others are serious but it is tough to tell which is which. Here are few pointers to help you:
- Who sent the notice? If the notice is coming straightly from Amazon and it declares you’ve violated someone’s copyright, it will also comprise contact information for the company in question. This is a genuine complaint that you should address. To not address it puts your account at threat even if you don’t plan to sell the item anymore.
This email is coming to you because the rights holder complained to Amazon official who supported their claim. They did this because the complainer was able to confirm that they were the correct holder. They may have done this through Amazon’s brand registry or they may have offered paperwork showing they own the rights.
Amazon won’t get involved in the clash or prove the genuineness of their claim – merely that they provided adequate paperwork to indicate they have a claim. They leave it to you to work it out with the correct holder.
2. Did you create the listing? If you formed the listing and used pictures or descriptions from the producer, off of eBay or anywhere squirreled away on the internet you most possibly did violate copyright if you didn’t get express authorization to use these pictures and description. If you did NOT make the listing but are merely piggybacking on it, then you can clarify that to the complainer and help fix the listing.
3. What is the brand? Some brands are very aggressive in caring their rights on Amazon.com. If you are promoting a name brand, then you are more possible to get a fake claim before copyright infringement. Why? Because they are quicker and simpler than going through Amazon legal. However, if you have a large brand breathing down your neck, you are most likely not going to win.
4. How aggressive is the complainer? We’ve seen some really aggressive letters from private label companies sent straightly through the platform to our clients. They don’t go through Amazon legal because they are hoping to threaten sellers off their listings without the added expense and the comparatively slow process. These claims are the ones that give sellers the most pain because they don’t know what to do or how seriously to take the claim. The other seller could be complete of…it and a complete fake. More on this in a minute.
5. Have you experienced distrustful behavior before this claim? For some of my clients, they’ve detected a pattern before they got this claim. They may have had to fend off fake or counterfeit claims on this ASIN before this latest claim popped up. This is another plan used by sellers to get other sellers off their listings. If you are sure that you have the right to sell this product and are using your own picture and description on the listing, then you must fight. They are using these strategies because they don’t have Amazon’s support behind them. With no Amazon’s support, they are all bark, no bite. All they can do is harassing you.
6. Are you selling a common product on a branded listing? I notice this lot. It is an old area. The original seller who formed the listing may have thought they were securing themselves by putting a brand on their product, but if they didn’t do it properly, then they are selling a common and Amazon will not support them if you take credit on their listing. As long as your product is accurately the same (without the sticker), you can sell on that listing. If, however, the seller has done it properly, then they can kick you off their listing. Take a long look at your product and make confirm that you have listed it appropriately.
Resolve the Claim
Now that you’ve looked at your product and the listing, here’s what you require to do:
1. Contact the rights holder. If the email came from Amazon, act instantly. Send a polite email to the rights holder inquiring: “Can you please share with me how you think we have infringed on your copyright? We are keen to clear up this issue. It was never our aim to infringe on a copyright.” Keep it well-mannered and unclear at first. Notice what the issue is. We regularly find that it is the photo or description – both of which are without difficulty fixed by taking your own photos and re-writing the description.
2. Fix the issue. Once you know what is going on, try to fix the issue. Occasionally it isn’t even you. I’ve had customers who were official sellers of a product get booted off along with all the other sellers. Once they provided a letter to the complainer (usually a lawyer hired by the rights holder or an internal person in charge of brand management) showing they were certified, they were reinstated on that listing instantly.
3. Ignore it. If the letter is coming straightly from different seller rather than Amazon, you may select to ignore it. The merely company on Amazon that can really hurt you is Amazon. If they are not supporting this claim, then it may be a trick. At the very least, they cannot kick you out off the listing. More on this later.
- Or…give up. If you are selling comfort brands like Versace, Coach or Fossil Watch and you did not buy directly from them…you are possibly going to lose. They will throw inauthentic or fake (or both) at you first (usually) and if you somehow pass that obstacle, they will file a copyright infringement claim. Their aim is to tie you up. Once an issue is set up, they have a special email address where they can let Amazon know the situation is fixed. If they decline to send that email…? That’s right; you are possibly out of luck if it is the main brand. They have the lawyers, the money and the will to track this until they tire you. Only you can choose how much time and energy you are going to put into defending yourself.
5. Fight back. If the email you got is not from Amazon and you are getting nowhere with your well-mannered approach, then you may be dealing with a crook who is doing this as a method to threaten or tie you up. Even if the letter came through Amazon, if the complainer is not answering to you, then you will finally have to inform Amazon if you want to sell on the listing again.
- Not supported: In this case, you require to look at the complete situation with the product. If you feel you have a legal right to sell this product and you did NOT buy from the gray market, then you are possibly experiencing a tactic. It would be especially doubtful if you had recently fended off an inauthentic or fake claim on the product. In this situation, you can file a policy violation with Amazon against the seller. Be humble. Inquire for Amazon’s help. If you guess the name of the seller, use it. If you don’t know for sure, inquire Amazon to look into it for you. Focus on their strategy violations, NOT THE COMPLAINER’S CLAIM:
1. They offensively used Amazon’s platform to converse with you
2. You suspect that they decisively made straw purchases and returned them with “counterfeit” or “inauthentic” claims to boot you off the listing.**
- They never planned to keep the product.
1. This was a manipulation of the policy.
2. You recently proved to Amazon that your product was genuine and instantly after, you got this letter claiming copyright infringement.
1. Supported: If the complainer is not getting back to you after a week of attempting (start with email so Amazon can see that you tried, and then call them), then you can directly complain to Amazon that this may be a tactic on the part of the complainer. As above, be well-mannered in all your communications. If you choose to file a policy violation against the so-called rights holder:
1) Focus on what you have done to solve the issue (3 emails, 3 calls, closed the listing…etc.) and how much time you provide it (at least a full week).
2)You suspect this may be a tactic rather than a legal claim by a rights holder because they are not answering even when you called them straightly (or maybe you can’t find their phone number/website…that’s suspicious, too)
- They never planned to resolve the issue; they just wanted you off the listing. This is a manipulation of the proposal and a policy violation, if so.
1)You recently confirmed to Amazon that your product was genuine (if you did) and shortly after, you got this letter claiming copyright infringement.
** If they purchase the product and keep it, they are more possibly to be legal and serious. This is permitted by Amazon. It is the customers who buy and return and who never planned to keep the product who are violating policy.
In all circumstances of filing a policy violation, you will not get an answer back from Amazon. They never expose the results of their investigations. Although you may find the claim is abruptly dropped and – as happened in one of our cases – the other seller is unexpectedly suspended/gone from the platform.
The most puzzling copyright infringement claim is the one that isn’t coming from Amazon. While several see this as a black & white issue (no Amazon support, ignore), I don’t. I’ve noticed too many of my clients fall victim to shady policy like bogus inauthentic and fake claims made by a quarrelsome and hostile competitor when they ignored the initial letter. These claims can harm you, tie up your listing and cost you money. They can lead to your account being suspended which will harm you a lot.
I suggest at least one polite email from you inquiring them to provide evidence of their claim and to be clear as to what part of the listing is infringing on their copyright. If they won’t do that within 5 business days, then you most possibly have someone who is tricking. If they escalate and try other tactics, then you can show Amazon that you directly responded in a useful way and they’re the ones being jerks.
If they never offer evidence, then you can declare that they are unable or unwilling to support their own claim which is suspicious.
While you can inform you never intend to infringe on a copyright, don’t state that you are apologetic for infringing or anything like that. They require to prove their claim. Don’t admit fault. Even if you intend not to sell that product again, don’t confess guilt. “We have made a business decision to no longer advertise this product on Amazon,” is acceptable.
Choose how hard you desire to fight this claim. For some of my clients, it doesn’t value it. They erase their listing and move on. For others, this is a high producing ASIN and they will battle it to the bitter end. In that case, I strongly recommend getting help both from an Amazon expert like us and an IP attorney. We can help with the Amazon side and the attorney can help with the legal side. Just declaring, “here’s the name and contact information of my IP attorney,” can work wonders for the buffers.
If their claim is genuine, however, be conscious that you are now entering into the official battlefield. It will charge you money. Be sure you selected an attorney who knows Amazon as well as IP law. I have a couple of attorneys I suggest to our clients in these situations.
As an ultimate word, the bottom line on copyright infringement is that Amazon takes it very sincerely. If your complainer has gone through Amazon to make their claim, you should answer even if you never plan to sell that product again. Amazon will also desire a Plan of Action from you as to how you will avoid these claims further in the future.
If the complainer hasn’t gone through the Amazon channel, then you don’t have to concern about Amazon shutting you down at this time. You DO have to agonize about dirty seller tricks, however. Be on the watch for those and fight them if you notice them. For this cause, I suggest at least one polite answer to a letter so you can get a better feel as to whether or not they are bluffing and whether or not they actually have evidence. Find out what they desire at least. Numerous copyright infringement claims are cleared up with new pictures and listings.
There is nothing stopping somebody with a genuine claim from serving you with legal papers at your business address…if they can find you. While Amazon’s robots can’t search through public records, attorney can.
What If I’m the Complainer?
If you experience that other sellers are infringing on your copyright and you have registered your trademark and listings with Amazon, then they will support you in your claim. There is a process for filing these claims with Amazon and it is pretty simple what to do. Search Seller Central help for “Report Infringement” if the link does not execute for you.
Be conscious; be alert, however, that many of my clients have not set themselves up suitably. Their brand is not lastingly affixed to their product, for example. In those circumstances, Amazon thinks them as selling a generic product with a sticker, basically. Make clear you are set up appropriately in the brand registry before going after other sellers. You will require to provide evidence of your trademark filing and then a confirmation that you have not authorized other sellers to sell on your account.
If you desire to send that initial letter through the platform, I recommend having it written by an attorney. They will make clear that you keep within the law and don’t make wild claims, etc. that could get you in difficulty later. A letter may be sufficient to get some sellers off your listing and is the smart way to go. What if they overlook you? Talk to your attorney about next steps and how far you are willing to go to secure your intellectual property. DO NOT play games on the stage. They could badly backfire on you. It is OK to make a buy of a competitor’s product to take a picture and show Amazon that it does not match the listing. It is NOT OK to buy dozens of units and then return them all on a similar day to mess with the other seller’s metrics. That is manipulation of the policy.