In order to list a product on Amazon, a company or individual is required to provide specific documents to prove their ownership. But previously, Amazon did not possess the appropriate infrastructure to detect forged labels or documents. Thus, it was fairly easy for a company or individual to take advantage of Amazon’s loosely monitored system to profit off of a brand’s original product.
Since then, Amazon has taken necessary provisions to improve the counterfeit issue on its platform. Amazon has created a program that offers three routes for companies (by enrollment only) towards solving intellectual property issues. Owners gain access to powerful tools such as automated protection, self-service counterfeit removal, and product serialization. The automated system detects fake documents such as brand logos, trademarks and other key data about lawful brands. It will then compare them with scans of their repository of product listings daily to weed out suspected counterfeits. Amazon has also created a self-service counterfeit removal, a tool that allows legitimate businesses to remove infringers’ listings without waiting for or needing Amazon’s approval. Lastly, a business can request to create a specialized serial number for a product sold on Amazon for $0.01-$0.05 per unit. As a result, Amazon can confirm an item’s authenticity by referring to the serial number.
In addition to the previous tools, Amazon has started testing out a new intellectual property tool that allows a company to resolve disputes by utilizing a private patent attorney. This method has been referred to as the District of Amazon or the Patent Neutral Evaluation Procedure. It is only available by invitation only and requires the owner to have a utility patent with an active U.S. registration. To participate in this program, the owner must submit an agreement to Amazon listing personal and patent information. Amazon will then contact the accounts listing the accused product with the same agreement. The seller must return the agreement within three weeks, otherwise, their product will be removed from Amazon. Once both parties have submitted their forms, Amazon will appoint a neutral, third-party attorney to evaluate the case, who will collect a mandatory $4,000 deposit which is held in escrow. If one party fails to provide a deposit, the opposite side will have their money returned and have the verdict determined in their favor. Once both parties deposit $4000, the owner and seller continue towards making written arguments. This portion of the process has strict deadlines; failure to meet deadlines will result in forfeiture of the case as well as the $4,000. A typical schedule for each case goes as followed:
- The owner has 21 days to submit their initial argument
- The seller has 14 days to reply to the owner
- The owner then has 7 days to reply and write their second and final argument.
Each written argument has specific page limitations and formatting requirements. Neither party can submit physical evidence. After the last argument is submitted, the neutral lawyer then evaluates the case and decides whether or not the product should remain on Amazon. Once settled, the losing party’s $4000 will be given to the attorney while the winning party’s $4,000 will be returned–Amazon does not receive any profit from the case.
Authored by: Izzy Liu