Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Travis J. Stockman of intellectual property firm Amazon Sellers Lawyer.
There are several legal tips an Amazon Seller should follow, which will not only avoid sellers’ account suspensions, but also help ensure the quality and consistency of their products being sold.
Operating an Amazon Seller account can be a very time consuming and challenging task. However, it is important Amazon sellers take time out of their schedule to incorporate the following preventative measures into their business procedures.
1. Protect your mark
Are you a private label Amazon seller? It is crucial that you register your trademarks to protect their product name or logo. A trademark is “any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.” 15 U.S.C § 1127.
Private label Amazon sellers should ensure their proposed trademark is inherently distinctive. That means that it is different from other trademarks. When private label Amazon sellers make their trademarks distinctive, they increase the chances of approval by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Approved trademarks provide private label Amazon sellers with stronger protections than they might have without the trademark protection. Also, it is anticipated that Amazon is going to come out with an improved Brand Gating where trademark ownership will be vital.
Registering a trademark spares the Amazon Seller the burden of defending their mark. Furthermore, it provides the Amazon seller with a legal remedy in the event somebody is using their mark or logo.
Private label Amazon sellers can fill out the trademark application on their own or hire an intellectual property law firm like ours to handle the application for them. The costs, either way, are relatively minimal.
2. Protect your invention
Amazon Sellers, private label sellers and others, who invent and create their own unique products, should a seek a patent. A patent provides the Amazon seller the exclusive right to prevent others from recreating their patented innovation for a limited period of time.
According to 35 U.S.C.A. § 112, when applying for a patent, you must include “a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor or joint inventor of carrying out the invention.”
Obtaining a patent will prevent any unauthorized third party sellers from being able to recreate and sell the patented item. This will also allow the Amazon Seller to sue for Patent infringement.
3. Use authorized manufacturers and save invoices
Amazon reserves the right to “immediately suspend or terminate your selling privileges and destroy inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement” in the event it receives a complaint regarding the authenticity of an Amazon Sellers listing.
Suspended Amazon sellers who use authorized distributors and provide invoices demonstrating product authenticity are usually successful in reinstating their account. Amazon Sellers should extend the time they retain invoices for their products. Most of our plans of action include an invoice holding period of 365 days. Also, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to continue to maintain all receipts. As a law firm that addresses many suspensions each week, Amazon could always change their policies to require you to maintain your invoices for longer than 365 days.
4. Understand your rights as a seller and familiarize with Amazon’s policy requirements
Just as Amazon’s marketplace grows on a daily basis, Amazon’s policies continuously change. In fact, as an Amazon seller, you are required to maintain your knowledge of changes in Amazon policies with or without notice of the changes.
Many Amazon sellers are unaware of how often Amazon’s policy changes. The last thing any Amazon Seller wants is to find their account suspended by policy changes they didn’t know about.
For example, several years ago Amazon Sellers were allowed to incentivize positive feedback by offering discounted prices. Now Amazon flags this as a prohibited activity, calling it “review manipulation.” Amazon’s policy states “If we determine that you have attempted to manipulate reviews or violated our guidelines in any other manner, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon privileges, remove reviews, and delist related products.”
Staying current on Amazon’s policies may seem like a simple suggestion, but it is extremely important as Sellers occasionally review Amazon policy updates. Re-educating yourself and requiring your staff to attend mandatory monthly Amazon Policy training sessions is an excellent way of keeping your business up to date with Amazon policy. For more information regarding Amazon’s Policies visit their Policies and Agreements page.
5. Don’t hesitate to have a lawyer assist you with account suspension
Many suspended Amazon sellers feel they can handle the Amazon Appeal process on their own. However, suspended Amazon sellers often send emotional based responses. Suspended Amazon sellers often fail to clearly and persuasively identify their account issues. Plans of Action drafted by suspended Amazon sellers often fail to be concise and formatted in a manner that allows Amazon’s Seller Performance people in India, Ireland or Costa Rica to read them quickly and find reasons for reinstatement.
It is extremely important to send a strong, detailed, and accurate plan of action the first time. Failing to properly respond to an Amazon suspension the first time can postpone the Amazon reinstatement and/or appeal process and may result in a permanent ban from selling on Amazon.
Takeaway for Amazon sellers
Amazon Sellers should always protect their intellectually property rights, assure the authenticity of their products, retain invoices for at least one year, and stay current on Amazon’s policies. In the event an Amazon Seller is unsure how to appeal their account suspension, do not hesitate to get legal assistance.
Amazon Sellers Lawyer is a team comprised of unique individuals with extensive knowledge and backgrounds. They are dedicated to defending the rights of eCommerce entrepreneurs and sellers across all platforms. Founded in 1994 by CJ Rosenbaum, the firm is now emerging as an industry leader as evidenced by its receipt of the Bitbond Best E-commerce Site of 2017 award. Whether a seller is facing an Intellectual Property issue, their funds are being held, or they simply need assistance with a suspension and reinstatement, the team at Amazon Sellers Lawyer has the knowledge and experience to serve sellers day and night, all around the World.