Two months since the July 3 Purge: Why is Amazon Going To War with Large Resellers?
I flew to Stockholm from the US on 3 July, and by the time I had landed, my inbox had filled up with many of the usual “I have been suspended” emails. Only, contrary to my typical daily experience, these were all from resellers, and all were Amazon IP suspensions.
Over and over, I saw the same or similar suspension notifications, citing “potential infringement of Intellectual Property or trademark rights.”
Many of the sellers themselves appeared by their own description to be longtime and large revenue accounts with previous and numerous infringement warnings.
Some had ignored them, some retained attorneys to help resolve them, and some had attempted to resolve them by emailing the party Amazon referred them to, but Amazon apparently did not think they had accomplished enough to avert the suspension. Without any other indication that a suspension loomed on the horizon, all of the accounts fell at once.
Larger resellers like this tend to have large inventories and more brands offered, therefore it wasn’t particularly surprising that they received multiple IP infringement complaints. Amazon had suspended the large sellers who previously considered themselves “too big to fall” off. Whatever protection they thought they had given past invitations to seller events, past connections to Account Managers or even Category Managers and VPs did not prevent these actions against their accounts.
In the course of a handful of hours in one or two days, I spoke directly with sellers who push a combined hundred million dollars of revenue through the marketplace each year. How large they were in the end meant nothing in the face of a new initiative to reduce at all costs the number of infringements coming in against individual seller accounts.
As it always is with Amazon, what happened before could happen again.
Think now about what preventative steps you can take now to avoid the nightmare of dealing with an Amazon IP suspension. You’ll have to contact brands or their representatives and waiti for answers from them about their willingness to retract Notice complaints.
And think about how realistic your assessment is of your ability to handle legal-based complaints like these, even if you resolved a few in the past on your own. Do you know how to dispute a notice, or do you simply consider them all fake or baseless?
Reseller Reactions to Their Amazon IP Suspensions: Does This Sound At All Like You?
In my experience, sellers usually express frustration and fear but also a serious dose of denial and ignorance about how these matters are handled internally at Amazon. Above all else, sellers often lacked the understanding of how to address the problem or craft a proper Plan of Action to appeal for reinstatement.
Our legal name is not the same as the name under which we do business on Amazon. In other words, they’d tell me, “All of our purchases are made under one name and our sales are made under the other.” Some of our suppliers may not be aware that our legal name differs from our business or storefront name, so they file unjust complaints with Amazon for (insert here, copyright or IP or trademark infringement.
Despite the fact they had received past notice claims of infringement based on this problem, they had no sense that disaster loomed ahead because of it.
Well this is a big problem, because the Notice form asks them to cite storefronts and ASINs without also prompting them to research which company sells under which name. Many large resellers offer hundreds if not over 1000 brand names with tens of thousands of individual products. They should take measures now (if they haven’t already) to notify their suppliers of their presence on Amazon to avoid further complaints by manufacturers.
In the past it was in everyone’s interest to keep the merchandise moving. The brands wanted their products sold, their distributors wanted to sell as much as possible, and Amazon resellers who liked the prices wanted to buy as much as they could sell on Amazon. Now brands go on the attack with infringement forms.
There is no way to continue along in this fashion if you’re simply locating live listings that sell decently well, acquiring the products somewhere and plowing ahead without a care in the world. If you only find out later there’s a problem when the brand complains, you’re too late.
That practice Amazon seeks to end here and now. They want holistic plans showing your systemic actions to operate in a way totally different from what you described above.It has to be perfectly effective, not good for some brands, but not for others. No items can be listed in the future without your certainty that the brand will not file an infringement against you. No other listing has any value to you anymore, if you don’t know it’s solid and the brand won’t do this.
We have never received any complaints from the manufacturer or any of the manufacturer’s representatives concerning the marketing of these products. Had we received any correspondence, we would have taken appropriate action to work it out with the manufacturer.
The brands are under no obligation to warn you that they are about to file an infringement against you to Amazon, if they even know who you are.
They don’t take the time to complain to their suppliers who sell to you nor to you if instead of that, they can simply file an infringement claim to Amazon’s notice teams. Then Amazon does all of the running around, not their own legal teams.
You can’t rely on hearing from them or their suppliers first before listing and selling their products on Amazon, with little idea of the threat you face from them if they decide to act.
Will your supplier relationship protect you? Will the brand care if the supplier goes to bat for you? It may take a lot of time to sort all of that out, in any case, and meanwhile, you’re not selling a thing.
We’ll just tell Amazon that we’re selling legitimate, authentic products, and all of this will go away and we’ll get back to normal. We have all the invoices they could want and our suppliers are well-known in the field/ industry.
The brands may not be accusing you of selling counterfeits. They may not even accuse you of sourcing from illegitimate supply chains. If you’re accused of violating a trademark or any IP rights, where you get the items or how genuine they are may not even come into play.
Amazon’s teams will read your appeal and say “Great, you’re not selling fakes, that’s good to know. But do you have retractions from the brands who keep bothering us about you? Have you resolved right’s ownership issues with them and you have proof of that, and they sent us a retraction of their Notice as well?”
Know the real legal issues instead of guessing what they mean, and ask someone who knows how to guide you towards resolution.
We just need to get a list of all the brands it’s “OK to sell” and stick just to those brands. My
There’s no list I can share with you that gives you an “All-clear” on what brands will allow you to sell their products on Amazon. There may be lists of “danger brands” but these days all brands know how effective this is, and what Amazon does when they send a complaint in. Do you have a contract with the brand that allows Amazon sales? You either know the brands are OK with your Amazon sales, or you don’t. If they don’t, they will file these. Such a list would need to be updated constantly and could change on a dime. Is it worth the risk to assume everything will be ok, day to day?
In the future if a brand complains, we’ll just take down the listing. All we can do is list items and only finding out there’s a problem if the brand complains.
Way too late. Amazon wants you avoiding these problems to begin with so that they never receive a notice form they must execute. That soaks up investigator hours that they could invest in other work, and it ups the company’s legal risk in case they fail to protect a brand’s rights with an error or mistaken failure to act. They’d never consider this an acceptable approach.
I bought these items legally, I have the right to resell these items and the brands or their lawyers are in the wrong for reporting me falsely for rights violations.
Fine, take them to court and prove it because Amazon is not getting caught in the middle of that legal action. Also, it sounds great, but it takes months or years even of legal wrangling to push moves like this through the courts. Will a letter from your lawyer force them to collapse into a heap and apologize to you for a false infringement? It hasn’t worked out that way so far. And all the while, you’re offline, not selling those items and perhaps not selling at all. How many sellers can shut everything down and wait for a miracle?
Why Are So Many of Us Dealing with Amazon IP Suspensions?
Amazon takes this extremely seriously because they get caught in the middle of what is essentially a fight between brands and marketplace resellers they want to control, or remove.
Amazon tires of their role as the punching bag go –between because they can resolve a problem that costs them resources, investigator hours and risk of legal liability by simply suspending accounts. They’d much rather ditch the reseller (you) than have to deal with this over and over.
It’s very straight forward now. When push comes to shove, Amazon will discard the reseller accounts and protect themselves from liability problems with the brands.
To them, resellers come and go, but brands stick around awhile. If the brands have no idea what your different company names are, you as a seller know they could file these against you — and that’s going to be the death of your Amazon business, period. There’s no other way around this, the brands have to know NOT to mention you when they file infringement claims.
You can tell Amazon that you’ll make it clearer to the brands in the future in a Plan of Action, but how believable would it be to say you will police hundreds of brands?
Amazon will think it’s impossible, because it is. If you’re selling and they’re not aware of you who are, only seeing your storefront, those brands will know it’s easy to knock you off. Amazon’s on their side, not yours.
There’s no way around this other than to make sure you won’t keep getting infringements. If Amazon thinks you’re going to get any more of these, they won’t bother reinstating you to begin with. If you manage to get reinstated without resolving the core problems at the heart of these actions, you’ll get suspended again for the same reason. You only get so many chances to sell on the site.
What Does this Mean for the Future? Was This Just a Trend or a Fad?
This means that the Show is over.
Whatever happened in the past in terms of sourcing from reliable distributors of main brands, even big distributors with long-standing relationships with both the resellers and the brands, changed fundamentally when Amazon moved to curb all the infringements those brands filed against Amazon sellers.
You need to know within a very narrow margin of error that the brands you sell on Amazon won’t suddenly take action against you with an infringement claim. Relationships need to be in place not just with suppliers of those brands, but with the brands themselves, unless you want to put the fate of your account future in the hands of a supplier. Has that strategy ever worked out well in the past?
Were many of the suspended sellers reinstated? Yes, of course, each crackdown precedes an array of appeals and Plans of Action that address adequately the prior shortcomings that led to the suspension, especially when we assist our clients along the path.
Does this protect them from the same thing happening again in the future? No. The only real way to know you’re protecting the account from right’s owner infringements is to know your brands, and to make sure they know you.
If you’re a potential target, then remedy that by making sure the brands have no plans to submit a new infringement. If you think you’ve been targeted by a false infringement, get everything together and counter that notice to Notice Dispute teams, and quickly.
If you need advice and guidance from an IP-trained attorney, I’m more than happy to get you to someone reliable and trustworthy.
Don’t assume that just because a crackdown ends Amazon moves on to another area of interest and you don’t have to worry about the same thing twice, or again in the future. If they think you’re going to continue to get these, they won’t let you sell. You’re more trouble than the commissions you’re worth at that point.
Is this the future of Amazon IP suspensions?
The bottom line is that Amazon doesn’t want to deal with this hassle anymore.
Times have changed, so we all have to change with them. If Amazon insists upon blind enforcement and sweeping actions against sellers who are unable to prove that false infringements have been filed against them, resellers cannot risk sourcing and selling brands that could turn on them at any moment. If you’re willing to gamble on a daily basis with your account, then by all means continue moving forward along those lines.
If not, then please wake up to this reality and embrace the changes needed. It won’t matter much HOW you accomplish compliance and avoid right’s owner complaints, but the fact remains, you must make it happen. Anything short of that goal risks your entire Amazon business heading straight into the holidays.