We’ve seen increasingly alarming signs coming out of Amazon’s Notice Claim of infringement teams. Ostensibly, those teams exist to process rights ownership matters and receive and enforce claims of violations. Brands, their compliance agents, or their attorneys, submit claim forms to report Intellectual Property, Trademark, patent or copyright complaints. Notice teams, in theory, warn the sellers who have committed these violations while providing contact information for the brand. In practice, these Notice forms could come from almost anywhere, and allege almost anything, at this point. Amazon investigators only verify the form to make sure it’s completed, they don’t face the obligation to research and confirm that the complaint came from a legitimate rights holder. Instead, they send the Amazon seller a Complaint ID, an infringement category type, and an email address. Off you go, they say in not so many words. Contact the complainant and resolve it amongst the two of you!
Given rampant abuse of the Notice claim process by sellers and other parties who submitted false or unsubstantiated infringements, Amazon was forced to create a Notice-Dispute team back in 2017. Two years later, after much progress, we’ve seen a backslide into the days where replies from Notice teams make little to no sense.
How are things going wrong?
- Brands submit notice claims and see the sellers removed, along with their own listings. Brands lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last month alone trying to resolve this with teams who don’t or won’t understand what they did wrong.
- Amazon enforces brand complaints against sellers of alleged counterfeit product, but have no test buy information along with the false report. They even admit this on occasion, if your IP attorney queries the nature of the counterfeit complaint. Amazon changed policy to state they’d only enforce counterfeit if the rights owner references a test buy order, and describes the proof of counterfeit. Nowadays, they simply fire off emails directing you back to the brand, whether there is one, or not.
- Attorneys play both sides against the middle in the process, promising resellers to defend them against unscrupulous brands, and then out of the other side of their mouths, advertising brand protection services to knock off any unwanted resellers. Often, this involves weak arguments that items sold without the relevant warranty constitutes a not “new” item,, or worse. They get paid by both players on both sides of that game regularly, so as long as this continues, they bank the cash and both sides suffer.
- We have seen multiple suspensions of sellers for things like ASIN variation abuse or item condition complaints (Used Sold as New, for example) who sent in POAs relevant to the suspension causes. Suddenly, they began receiving requests for “Greater Details” about a Notice claim of infringement? Or they were prompted to prove authenticity? What’s going on here?
- We’ve tried to research this bizarre behavior and decided that investigators went into the account annotations, and found (as they often will on many a reseller’s account) evidence of past notice claims of infringement. They unilaterally change the reason for the suspension and begin asking for information that has nothing at all to do with what you were suspended for. Many sellers have spent several appeals simply trying to redirect their attention back to what they originally asked for, and what their POA was meant to address. Essentially, you have to do their jobs for them, and fix their erroneous reading of your account annotations. Could it get any worse?
- Yes, it could, unfortunately. The biggest problem of all in recent weeks is their complete failure to respond at all. Where do those emails go? They cannot simply flush them all, someone would notice that. Do they simply transfer them all back and forth? Do they have so many thousands coming in per hour that they are hopelessly behind, and it will take weeks or months for them to catch up?
What do you do about all this? Escalate Escalate Escalate
Escalation paths can be tough to navigate when it comes to Notice, because unlike Product Quality queues, firstname.lastname@example.org is presented as your only path to salvation. The major players on the Notice teams change over time, and I think one or two simply rotated off that team out of sheer frustration or exhaustion. These days, you’re better off keeping your request standard to a subject line that reads “Notice Team Manager” with an email that asks for an update, if they haven’t replied. If they replied indicating that nobody even read the previous email, make that clear in your first few lines.
Keep in mind that unlike Product Quality teams, Notice teams do not have multiple email queues that you can use, when you absolutely need to change gears. You’ll need to get their attention
Don’t make the escalation too long, or they will ignore that, too. Keep it to a few paragraphs, and key factual information, at the most. Make it clear that whether you’re the private label brand booted off your own listing or you’re a reseller targeted by a competitor who does not even represent the brand cited as the rights owner, you’ve appealed previously numerous times without any sign of proper review at all.
Amazon doesn’t accept valid Notice-disputes nearly as often as they did in 2018. They often lose the emails or simply annotate the account. The only response to that inaction is to keep at it, and make sure they properly review your contacts. You need written confirmation that the problem is considered resolved on their end.
Where Do You Escalate?
I always ask my clients to try one escalation to Notice Team Management, even as I realize that these days, they are unlikely to see a better or more meaningful reply. Where else? You can take it to Executive Seller Relations, sure. Jeff@amazon.com is a well known target for a reason, and not only because it is Jeff’s email address.
In some cases, we escalate to the Product Quality investigators and their team managers. Amazon’s messaging back to sellers alternates lately between asking for retractions from rights owners, to providing invoices and authorization letters to prove authenticity, and back again to provide evidence that the counterfeit allegations Amazon received are unfounded. They appear to mix and match between various complaint cause diagnoses and even what they want from you in a POA. Is the supplier verifiable? Are you buying directly from an authorized distributor? How much proof of authenticity is enough?
Many private label brand owners use Brand Registry escalations to troubleshoot attacks on the authenticity of their own brands, or to cope with false infringement claims against them. Brand registry has also become an excellent place to go when your listings are under attack from unscrupulous sellers who learned how to game catalog systems, too.
Where Does It all Lead?
We’ve seen numerous sellers caught up in this spider’s web, with no idea where to turn next. Most of those tricky cases are resolved during an escalation process. Between sellers unsure about what to write or attach and investigators who may not clearly understand why you were suspended in the first place, the only way to cut through the noise is to grab a manager’s attention.