Season 1, Episode 80
Suspected IP Complaints
[00:00:07] Chris: Hello everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris I’m with Leah McHugh, also of ecommerceChris. Hello. How are you?
[00:00:15] Leah: Good, how are you, Chris?
[00:00:17] Chris: On the other side of the world. Everything going okay over there?
[00:00:20] Leah: Yeah, it’s good. Yeah.
[00:00:21] Chris: Fantastic. So today wanted to talk about this recent trend. I won’t use the term alarming because I’ve been using that way too much lately. Suspected IP complaints. The concerning part, I would say, is that we’re seeing a mixture of private label brands and resellers hit with this.
Naturally, resellers have a long history of being flagged for potential IP infringement, intellectual property claims. This is Amazon trying to get out ahead of received intellectual property claims.
This is something where sometimes sellers have to get a listing amended, right? They join a listing or they create a listing that has potentially trademarked content on it according to Amazon bots and algorithms.
[00:01:03] Leah: Yeah, and that’s normally how I see it in the cases that I work on, they’re not even necessarily asking for a plan of action in those cases.
It’s just an automated notification that comes through and all that’s really expected of them is to edit the listing to remove whatever trademark Amazon thinks they’re infringing on, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, especially if they think you’re infringing on your own trademark, and that is in fact the brand of the listing.
[00:01:26] Chris: Well, so this is something you’ve seen on the cases you’re working on, is you have to get on a call with the client or the seller and call catalog and get content removed and content updated so that those words won’t be in the listing anymore. Otherwise people appeal it saying, Well, we deleted this in our listing, but they haven’t updated it on the catalog side, the word remains and then they get rejected on appeal and that’s creating a lot of confusion.
[00:01:51] Leah: Well, so I see that on the compliance cases. I don’t really see that on the suspected IP cases because generally speaking, performance doesn’t block the listing when they send that warning. So it’s actually a lot easier to edit the listing. You can usually just edit it in Seller Central and that change goes through when, if a listing is blocked, then yes, you have to do the additional steps of flat file, call catalog.
[00:02:11] Chris: Correct. But in the age of the new account health rating, obviously we’re hearing from people who all of a sudden have a bad score or they see on their account health dashboard that several of these pop up. So again, whether they’re private label, whether they’re resellers, sometimes they’re on a listing for whatever reason, maybe they control that listing themselves. Maybe they don’t , that listing has violations on it or potential violations. And now because Amazon’s trying to head off additional received IP complaints throughout Q4, they’ve got account health reps calling a lot of sellers that we’ve been talking to, to say, get this cleaned up, resolve these suspected IP complaints.
In some cases, also resolve any received IP complaints because we are going to ask you for a plan of action within 72 hours if you don’t. They don’t even necessarily say how long you have to fix it but because we’re already only a few weeks out from Black Friday, we’re seeing more people say, No, we just got the 72 hour message. So those people are asked for a plan of action at that point.
[00:03:17] Leah: Yeah, and also, it’s a lot harder for a reseller to edit a listing if they don’t have the highest level of contribution. So if you’re given 72 hours to clean something up that you might not actually be able to update on your end, that is a tough situation to be in for sure. My question is, as you’ve worked on more of these than I have, are you seeing it where it’s just suspected IP complaints that they’re getting the 72 hours warning? Or are they getting a mixture of suspected and confirmed infringement complaints that are triggering the 72 hour warning?
[00:03:51] Chris: In most reseller cases, they have both but when they get the call from account health reps, I mean, as you can imagine out there, it’s very inconsistent how this is approached by Amazon, when they get the call from account health reps, so far it seems like the emphasis is on suspected.
And if they say, I didn’t create this listing, what do you guys want me to do? That’s not an answer. And if they end up asking for a plan of action, it’s why didn’t you identify that there were potential IP or in Amazon’s terms, suspected IP infringements on that listing? Why did you join it in the first place? Don’t you have a process to prevent that? And then some of the resellers are like, I don’t know. I have thousands of listings. What do you want me to do? The seller I talked to a couple days ago has 4,000 listings and wanted me to go through 4,000 listings which I could not do.
[00:04:39] Leah: Well and again, I mean, it’s a flawed process, so you can’t sell a product on Amazon if somebody else puts incorrect information on the detail page because you can’t correct the detail page.
[00:04:49] Chris: Right.
[00:04:50] Leah: That’s exactly a terrible SOP.
[00:04:53] Chris: This is Amazon’s means of making life convenient for themselves because they’re trying to prevent intellectual property complaints. So if you’ve got an agreement with the brand you’re selling, if you’re reselling that brand, You should be able to come back with, no, I’m an authorized seller of this brand, should you not?
[00:05:12] Leah: Well, the suspected IP usually isn’t because of the brand of the listing. It’s usually, I mean, it’s supposed to be because you mentioned somebody else’s trademark on a listing for a product that has nothing to do with that other trademark. I have seen it come in where Amazon is like suspected IP for the actual brand of the product that is being sold, which is just an error on their end.
[00:05:31] Chris: And some of these are just bot mistakes.
[00:05:33] Leah: Yeah. My concern with the bot mistakes, because I see the bot mistakes on the compliance side as well, right? Because I have bots looking for specific words for the compliance stuff.
My concern with the bots is that you can go through the process of appealing with Amazon, know this is flagged in error and on an individual basis they will reinstate but is anybody tweaking the algorithm because I’ll see the same mistakes happen over and over again on different accounts and different people’s listings.
[00:06:02] Chris: Well, no.
[00:06:03] Leah: So nobody’s going into the algorithm, for example, on the compliance side, Amazon keeps flagging up telescopes as a prescription only device in a class two medical device and a telescope is a class one medical device and it doesn’t require a prescription to buy one.
But for the last 6 to 12 months, I have seen multiple listings continue to get flagged for having that word in it, so nobody is fixing the problem. They are just fixing the individual issues become of the problem, which is kinda funny because that’s the exact opposite of what they expect sellers to do with their plans of action.
[00:06:37] Chris: Right. It is the opposite. To take a step back, engineers at Amazon who are building these tools and tweaking these tools are only as good as the quality of the meetings they have within for from what needs to be flagged.
[00:06:52] Leah: But nobody ever goes back to the engineers and be like, Oh, we need to remove that.
[00:06:58] Chris: Or if they do, it still doesn’t get fixed. It’s probably the quality of the conversation that enforcement people and marketplace management has with engineering teams. And that’s because sellers constantly wonder where this is coming from and why it can’t be fixed. Look at the pesticide flags. I mean, that’s the best example, right? These things take not just time, they take quality meetings with quality personnel to sort this out.
In the meantime, you have account health reps reaching out to sellers that we later hear from, and the account health reps are trying to figure it out themselves, just like they’re trying to tell you as the seller what you need to do next.
But ultimately, if you’re asked for a plan of action within 72 hours, the clock’s already ticking. And whether it’s a bot error or you listed something inappropriately. I mean, some sellers don’t even create their own listings, they outsource that. You have to figure that out very quickly, like in terms of causality, right? Root causes in the plan of action, and you have to put the POA together and you have to get it to them within 72 hours because November being peak that means they might take time, extra time to read your appeal because there are so many people asked for appeals, and it’s yet again where Amazon’s suspending a lot of people in peak and creating more appeals when they’re already drowning in appeals.
[00:08:21] Leah: Yeah, and that’s why I was surprised to see them asking for appeals for suspected IP because it seemed like the whole point of the suspected IP, was for Amazon to be able to resolve this issue without having to go through plans of action before there were complaints, right? So I’m surprised that they’re now asking for a plan of action for something that they were trying to make completely automated.
[00:08:41] Chris: My guess would be they looked at last year, 2021, 2022, and they decided we got so many IP infringement claims last year because so many sellers have so much money to gain in Q4, and they’re just looking to take each other out any way possible. So we’ve got to reduce these received IP complaints, tweak the suspected IP algorithms. We’re only kind of sort sure what we want, but we’re just gonna push the burden on them to start telling us what they’re doing. And if we don’t like what they’re doing, we’ll keep them suspended or we’ll threaten to suspend them. If we do like what they’re doing, we’ll accept their plan of action and consider that at least the end of the matter for that one appeal.
That’s my theory, because the IP infringements haven’t ebbed at all over all this time. I mean, there’s still so many sellers reporting each other. Even the fake counterfeit complaints really never went down. In the old days, you could send in an invoice and say, but it’s not counterfeit.
Here’s where I got it. Here’s my supplier. Here’s their website., go on and verify them. Here’s the invoice, here’s the proof. And then Amazon investigators don’t look at the invoice or don’t like something on it, won’t say what they don’t like and they send that we need more information message, or they just say, we can’t verify your invoice to verify your supplier. That started over a year ago, and that creates even more work for them.
[00:10:03] Leah: That’s been, that’s been so many years at this point.
[00:10:08] Chris: I mean they really beefed up the constant rejection of invoice and the constant, we can’t verify your supplier. And I think that coincided with, when they stopped calling suppliers as well. The calls have gone down.
[00:10:23] Leah: Well and certainly the requesting your supplier’s supplier is a new request.
[00:10:28] Chris: That’s newer.
[00:10:29] Leah: Which is kind of hilarious. If you know anything about supply chain relationships.
[00:10:35] Chris: Right, and again, these are private label brands having invoices rejected alongside resellers. A lot of brands who have factories in China manufacture, you know, the factory doesn’t have a website. Amazon will just reject the supplier, even if they’ve been manufacturing your stuff for years and you’ve shown Amazon numerous invoices in the past.
[00:10:54] Leah: So why would you be counterfeiting your own items unless you’re Gucci? But that’s another story.
[00:11:00] Chris: And on that note, anyone who has questions about suspected IP. We can have a conversation about received IP complaints.
Typically, you’re trying to get retractions from the right owners if it’s a legitimate claim when they’re received, but the suspected IP what to do about it. Maybe you can amend listings the right way, Maybe you can’t. Let me know, let Leah know because we’re sifting through a lot of these throughout the month of November and December, and it looks like this is going to be one of the hot button issues for Q4 2022.
So thanks again for listening and thanks Leah for joining me.
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