It is a sunny day and you are living your best life as an Amazon dropshipper then BOOM.
You notice something is not quite right in the universe. You have been hit with an Intellectual Property Claim
And so many questions rush into your mind. What does this mean? How does it affect my account? How do I get rid of it?
Finally, how do I make sure this does not happen again?
In this guide, we will answer all these questions so you can pull yourself by your bootstraps and get out of this situation unscathed.
Table of Contents:
What is Intellectual Property on Amazon?
First things first, IP stands for intellectual property. There are 3 types of intellectual property rights on Amazon:
According to the US Patent and Trademark office, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
Basically, a trademark identifies that a certain product belongs to a specific company and recognizes the brand.
Here are some examples of what falls under the trademark definition:
Words: Disney, Benetton, Coca-Cola
Phrases: “The happiest place on Earth”, “Just do it”, “I’m lovin’ it”
I bet you can name the brand just by looking at the logo.
That is where it holds its power.
Copyrights on the other hand protect the rights that creators have over their work. In terms of Amazon, this type of claim most often applies to product images.
And the third type of IP on Amazon is patents. They protect the rights of the inventor to stop others from making, using, or selling the invention. On Amazon, you can encounter two types of patent claims: design patent (referring to the visual quality of the product) and utility patent (referring to its functionality).
As a dropshipper copyright and trademark claims are the two most common types of violations you could face.
Amazon IP Violations: the basics
When it comes to Intellectual Property on Amazon we can’t talk about IP Claims without clarifying Suspected IP Violations and identifying the difference between these two terms.
What are Suspected IP Violations?
Suspected IP Violations are Amazon’s efforts to monitor the platform for IP issues.
Listings would get flagged for using certain brand names in the title, description, or keywords.
Let’s say you are selling a shower curtain with a mickey mouse print. That listing can quite easily fall into the Suspected IP Violations category and hence be deactivated.
image source: www.entreresource.com
And while Amazon says that these violations do not have a significant impact on your account if you get too many of them your account could get suspended.
So what are you to do?
First – Amazon rarely sends out an email notification for those so you should regularly check your account dashboard for Suspected IP Violations. Simply go to the Product Policy Compliance section of Account Health to check for any issues.
Then if you find one don’t panic.
As a dropshipper you probably didn’t create that listing. Typically, Amazon says that the suspected IP violation will be removed 180 days after the listing has been removed from your account.
But you can contact the seller performance team (email@example.com) directly as they are responsible for Product Policy Violations. You can explain that you didn’t create the listing. Let them know you have a perfect performance record and ask if the violation can be removed from your account right away.
What are Amazon IP claims?
So far we know every brand has IP rights. However, not all brands are set on enforcing them and preventing others from selling their products.
Those who do can file an IP claim with Amazon against a particular ASIN. All they have to do is fill out Amazon’s online form.
Amazon makes it quite easy for property owners or anyone to report IP violations. In fact so much so that sellers have been experiencing false positives sometimes because of simple clerical errors.
Once such a claim is filed Amazon will immediately remove the listing. Then, they will send you a notification in your Seller Central Account. You can find it under Performance > Account Health > Product Policy Compliance > Received Intellectual Property.
Along with that, you will get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The message will look similar to the one below:
Suspected IP Violations vs. IP Claims
Now, let’s draw a clear distinction between Suspected Intellectual Property Violations and IP Claims.
Getting a Suspected Intellectual Property Violation means that Amazon only suspects there might be an IP Violation so they deactivate the listing preemptively.
Getting an IP Claim, on the other hand, means the rights owner proactively reported your listing to Amazon. And they are taking action against you.
How do IP claims affect your Account Health?
By now you must have some questions.
For example, why does Amazon make it so easy for alleged rights owners to file a claim?
That’s because Amazon’s intention is to protect itself. Intellectual property issues can escalate into legal matters quite quickly.
If let’s say Amazon receives an IP claim but doesn’t act on it, they could get in trouble. So Amazon tends to give the benefit of the doubt to the brand (alleged rights owner).
If it is the first time you get such a claim in all likelihood it won’t get your account suspended. Mostly, it will lead to the ASIN being deactivated or your selling privileges for that item being suspended.
But if you get a few IP violations on your record you run the risk of account suspension. And when push comes to shove Amazon would not hesitate to suspend it. Getting your account up and running again would be a difficult feat.
So make sure when you get an IP Claim you respond promptly and show Amazon you take the matter very seriously.
How to resolve an IP Claim
Resolving an IP Claim can be a lengthy process.
First, you need to contact the brand. The rights owner’s contact details are mentioned in the email notification you receive from Amazon.
Ask them about the reasons for the IP Claim.
This can play out in a few different scenarios:
A) It turns out it was a mistake
B) The Brand won’t issue a retraction
C) The Brand never gets back to you
D) The Claimant is not the rights owner
It turns out it was a mistake
So imagine the brand gets back to you and it turns out you are not in violation of their intellectual property rights. Sometimes it can even turn out to be a clerical mistake.
Then, you can ask the brand to issue a retraction with Amazon. But you need to understand it would still take time to get the claim off your account.
The rights owner would have to email email@example.com and state that the issue is resolved and they want to withdraw the complaint.
It should look something like this:
Trademark Infringement Claim Retraction Notice – Complain ID XXXXXX
We are contacting you to inform you that we are withdrawing the trademark infringement claim filed against:
Please reinstate the mentioned content and remove any strikes placed on this seller’s Amazon account as the claim was filed in error.
In case Amazon suspended your account you would also need to create a Plan of Action and attach the rights owner letter to it.
The brand won’t issue a retraction
Well, that is unpleasant to say the least but you can still remedy the situation.
If you indeed unknowingly infringed on the brand’s rights you need to address the issue asap. This means removing any other listings you might have of the brand in question.
Email the rights owner, apologize and take responsibility. Let them know you are taking the necessary steps to ensure the issue never happens again.
Then, if your Amazon seller account got suspended write a thorough POA (Plan of Action). Start by addressing these 3 key points:
- What went wrong
- What you’ve done so far to fix the issue
- What measures are you taking to prevent this in the future
Make your POA concise and specific. The seller performance team favors clarity over wordiness.
The Brand never gets back to you
Quite often you won’t even hear back from the brand. If you don’t get an answer within a few working days send a follow-up email.
It is important to reach out several times. Even if the rights owner doesn’t reply, you can use this correspondence to show Amazon you took immediate action.
When you’ve done everything possible to contact the brand it means that you are taking Intellectual Property rights seriously and you’re not trying to violate any policy.
The Claimant is not the rights owner
But, wait a minute…
Is the claimant the actual rights owner or even their legal representative?
If they are not, their claim is null and void so it is definitely worth checking.
To make this simple let’s give a fictional example.
You receive a claim for a trademark violation on OriginalBrandX.
However, you notice the claimant is a third party called BrandSecurityY. If they provided a trademark registration number in the claim you can look it up on the official websites of the intellectual property office:
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
Quite often fraudulent claims would be filed with a wrong registration number.
You can also contact OriginalBrandX and ask them if BrandSecurityY is their legal representative. If they reply saying they are not represented by this company you have another weapon in your arsenal to shoot down this claim. The way this seller found out:
As you can see getting an IP claim is quite a headache to resolve. So it is best to avoid listing items that can get you in trouble in the first place. You can never be 100% safe in the world of business but you can surely decrease the risk to a minimum.
Pro Tip: Need help with Amazon Dropshipping? Get answers from our resident Amazon Expert in our Q&A Facebook Group.
How to prevent IP Claims
Prevention is better than the cure.
Why go through this whole account suspension ordeal?
Especially when you can take simple steps to avoid it.
So here it is… the best strategy – don’t list items from brands that are known for filing IP Claims. Well, that’s easier said than done.
The difficult part is there is no way to find out which brands do that in the Amazon Seller App. And it doesn’t look like Amazon is prepared to share such a list with sellers anytime soon.
So many dropshippers resort to spreadsheets to keep a track of those “troublemaker” brands
There are two issues with that tactic though:
- It takes a lot of time to sort through the list
- The list is bound to get outdated
So what is the alternative?
Luke Profits goes into details about his strategy for avoiding IP Claims.
It’s best to have this whole process automated and not worry about which brand is okay to list.
It’s even better if this function can be integrated into your repricer so you don’t have to waste any time.
That’s where an all-in-one repricer and stock monitor tool like Repricehub can help. Unlike other repricers, it also checks for IP violation alerts.
So when you list items with Repricehub, it automatically scans them and checks whether the brand often submits IP Claims.
If such a product is found, the app will prevent you from listing it. You will see a pop-up showing you the item isn’t safe.
If you still want to list it though you can ignore the warning and proceed. Just know that it’s not recommended.