Branding: Introduction to Amazon Brand Registry

by David T. Griffith, on May 3, 2018

Branding is a key part to any business and should never be discounted as just a logo and some stationery. In this blog I will talk about Amazon Brand Registry, a new effort in brand protection.

I have had the opportunity to work with the team behind the new set of tools and policies designed for protecting brands on Amazon.com, Inc. ("Amazon"), which is now rolling out to the public. Amazon Brand Registry aims to do two things: to stop counterfeit products from appearing on the Amazon marketplace and to enforce registered trademark protection.

Of Course Counterfeits are Bad

Counterfeits are problematic for the market, manufacturers, sellers and the Amazon ecosystem. They breed consumer mistrust for any or all of the parties in the customer journey that are misrepresented by the flawed and ill-gotten merchandise. It ruins a customer’s experience and makes him or her less likely to buy from a seller or brand for fear a counterfeit could appear again. If the Amazon platform was flooded by counterfeits, you can bet their business would plummet.

Trademark Infringement is Worse

Similarly, trademark misuse and infringement can lead to poor customer experiences, sometimes done in concert with counterfeits. Often trademarks are misused to upsell a product by using a similar yet misleading name. Imagine a toy line released under the name “Dizney” for a series of figurines modeled after a hot-selling Disney toy line no retailer can keep in stock. At first glance, the toys, logo and accompanying artwork are recognizable as the actual brand. Consider the frustration of many customers as they discover the merchandise they spent a lot of hard-earned cash on is not authentic, but a knock-off with no method to return the item. Are those customers going to immediately buy the next Disney collectible without hesitation?

Take another hypothetical, based on my own experiences. You’re searching Amazon for a household brand name and you keep finding products in your search results that make no sense. Maybe you’re looking for a countertop appliance for your kitchen, and instead you’re finding an air freshener for the bathroom. Take a deeper look at the listing. Chances are, you’ll find the misused brand name used as a descriptor for the air freshener. The seller is hoping you’ll stumble across these listings and buy on impulse. Meanwhile, you still haven’t found the appliance you were searching for.

Brand Protection is Possible

Fortunately for brand owners, Amazon has launched the new Brand Registry portal. Brand owners have the ability to search Amazon’s entire catalog using text and image queries. For example, a brand’s logo image can be the basis of a search; all search results will contain product detail pages with images that share some likeness with the logo, or even the logo itself appearing in an unauthorized manner. The text search works in much the way you would expect, though you’re searching product titles and descriptions for misused trademarked terms.

When a brand owner comes across a potential brand violation, the owner has the ability to report it to the brand registry team directly from the search findings. The tool uses a short form asking for an explanation about the potential violation and to provide backup data, such as a registration number from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If Amazon’s legal team determines the reported violation is in fact legitimate, the ASIN will be removed and the seller will be notified to take corrective action in order to be relisted.

To enroll in Amazon’s brand registry program, the owner of the registered trademarks must submit a list of all word and image marks filed with the USPTO and the corresponding registration numbers. It’s not hard, but I recommend involving your trademark lawyer.

There are more steps to brand protection, which I will cover in future articles.

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