Few e-commerce platforms present more opportunity and potential for brands looking to gain visibility and sell their products online than Amazon. In fact, 53 cents of every dollar spent online is spent on Amazon.
However, the powerful e-commerce platform can also be a nightmare for companies looking to manage their online presence and control how their products are priced, displayed, and sold. Amazon is notorious for not allowing a private brand to control who sells its products or even how its products are priced on the platform.
In many cases, a brand’s products end up on Amazon without the company’s approval. It’s not uncommon for unauthorized sellers to even upload a company’s proprietary images for use in these unwanted listings.
In addition, Amazon doesn’t allow brands to introduce in their listings any content that drives Amazon shoppers to a third-party website or brick-and-mortar stores, which makes it difficult for a brand to keep the value of its products from eroding when items are priced artificially low on the Amazon platform.
In working with brands on Amazon, we’ve seen these pain points come up time and time again. Brand owners are frustrated by the fact that they are unable to control who sells their products, unable to control the pricing of their products by both authorized and unauthorized sellers, and unable to control the use of their intellectual property such as images, text, and trademarks.
While there’s still plenty of room for improvements, Amazon has thankfully taken steps to resolve at least the issue of copyright and trademark infringement through the launch of their new brand registry program, Amazon Brand Registry.
Old Amazon Brand Registry vs. New Amazon Brand Registry
For years, Amazon has had a brand registry. In the past, however, this brand registry called Amazon Brand Registry 1.0 only allowed a brand to control content on its own listing and to create listings without a Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) such as a UPC or AIN for its products. While useful, the features of Amazon Brand Registry 1.0 were limited.
With the new Amazon Brand Registry, brands selling on Amazon are given access to a few new and exciting features such as adding extra images and a brand story to its listings to enhance brand awareness and promote customer loyalty.
Most importantly, though, Amazon Brand Registry showed early promise that it would give a brand more control over how others sell its products. The introduction of Amazon Brand Registry’s release followed Amazon’s November 2016 decision to begin “gating” certain brands, making it so that third-party sellers could not sell certain brands’ products without presenting to Amazon written permission from the brand owner or legitimate invoices.
This timing led many people to wonder whether Amazon Brand Registry would take further steps toward giving brands more control over how their products and their intellectual property are presented on Amazon. Indeed, this turned out to be the case.
Enrolling in Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry includes some powerful new tools for protecting a brand’s intellectual property that anyone selling physical products on Amazon should be aware of.
Before you can access these new tools, however, your brand needs to register for Amazon Brand Registry.
Even if your brand is already enrolled in the oldAmazon Brand Registry, it won’t automatically be enrolled in the new Amazon Brand Registry. You need to enroll again by visiting brandregistry.amazon.com.
In order to qualify for the program, the brand will be required to provide a registered trademark and its coordinating serial number. Unfortunately for up-and-coming brands, pending trademarks don’t qualify for Amazon.
Brand Registry Today
When entering a trademark on the Amazon Brand Registry application, one must be careful to exactly match the spelling of the trademark as it appears on uspto.gov. Keep in mind that it’s case sensitive and spaces count as well.
Next, one will be required to enter the contact information for the brand holder and/or the brand’s legal representative. The person registering will be required to access a confirmation email to complete the enrollment process.
The last step is to upload any photographs that the brand would like included on any packaging as well as an image of the brand’s logo. After submitting the required information and sending the trademark confirmation code to Amazon, one should be all set and ready to start accessing the new tools and features of Amazon Brand Registry.
How Amazon Brand Registry Helps Brands Protect Their Intellectual Property
Perhaps Amazon Brand Registry’s most useful new tool for protecting intellectual property is the “Report a Violation” link.
This new feature looks a little more like a simple hyperlink, but it’s a powerful tool that Amazon Brand Registry 1.0 didn’t offer. Through this link, brands can save hundreds of hours searching for sellers who are abusing their intellectual property, thanks to the tool’s powerful new search features.
These search features allow one to search for specific text, keywords, and even images by using a tool similar to Google’s reverse image search. If a brand owner finds that its intellectual property is being misused, Amazon Brand Registry streamlines the reporting process, making it easy to take action against the violator(s).
In working with numerous brands, we’ve found that hunting down listings that are misusing a brand’s copyrights and trademarks is one of the most arduous steps in protecting its intellectual property. With Amazon Brand Registry, this process has been drastically simplified.
Still, it’s important to be clear about what the new Amazon Brand Registry does and doesn’t provide.
Amazon Brand Registry still doesn’t give brands the power to control authorized sellers or demand exclusive distribution of its products. Rather, the new system only makes it so brands are able to protect their intellectual property by reporting sellers who are misusing copyrighted text, images, and trademarks.
Yet, it’s important that brand owners don’t abuse this new feature. Amazon has already started noting brands that are using the “Report a Violation” link as a means to bully authorized sellers of their products, and Amazon seems to be taking steps to eliminate such abuse of the tool.
Since Amazon Brand Registry is tied to a brand’s seller account, we strongly recommend that brands use the “Report a Violation” link only for cases where a third-party seller is misusing a brand’s intellectual property.
In cases where a brand needs to use the “Report a Violation” tool, it should be very clear and detailed in its justification of how its intellectual property has been infringed upon. The more evidence provided, the better.
The “Report a Violation” link should only be used to report copyright and/or trademark infringement. Patent infringements must still be reported through Amazon’s original infringement link.
Making the Most of Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry isn’t a perfect solution. However, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It puts more power back into the hands of brand holders whose products are sold on Amazon.
To make the most of the new system, brands should use the “Report a Violation” link’s search engine to consistently catch and report sellers who are misusing their brand’s intellectual property as quickly as possible.
Brand owners will also want to check out the additional enhanced brand content that Amazon Brand Registry allows them to include on their listings. This feature should help companies grow brand awareness and recognition.
Brand Registry also has a new perk that helps new brands get their first reviews. The Early Reviewer Program, only available to U.S. Brand Registered Sellers, is a program for products with less than five reviews and a selling price of $15 or more to get their first reviews. The program is reasonably priced at $60 and a great value for brands looking to garner their first reviews for proof of concept on their Amazon ASIN.
In the future, there’s a real possibility that Amazon will introduce more features and tools to Amazon Brand Registry; the company has a history of both adding and removing features in response to changes in the market.
As of right now, though, these two new features of Amazon Brand Registry provide a powerful new way for companies to control how their brand is presented on Amazon while using the e-commerce giant as an effective launching board for new products.
In-post Images: Screenshots by Robyn Johnson. Taken June 2017.