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Suspensions - Copyright & Infringement

May 17, 2017

Copyright Infringement is probably one of the trickiest suspensions to navigate. There are a couple of reasons your product could fall under this category.

One possible reason is simply that your product does not match the description. This snafu can happen fairly easily as manufacturers change their packaging from time to time. This is simple to navigate. To prevent it, make sure your main picture is of the product you actually have in stock. Add additional pictures of package variations and make a note in the description that packing may vary. To defend it if you’re suspended, provide  link to the manufacturer’s website with screenshots of the different packaging and invoices from your supplier.

Another reason your product could fall under this category is your competitors could be filing copyright violations against you or leaving reviews that would suggest your item is inauthentic. To prevent and defend this, follow the same steps outlined above. Once you are reinstated, file a complaint with Amazon, if you can figure out which competitor is falsely accusing you. You can only do this once you are in good standing with Amazon and they will investigate it. However, if you are selling a generic item (or even a private label product wherein you simply smacked a sticker on a generic item) and piggybacking onto either a branded or other “private label” product that you swear is identical, trust me it’s not. And it’s not worth it. While you’ll get fast sales, it will absolutely bite you in the ass. Just don’t piggyback. Even piggybacking a legit product you purchased via retail arbitrage onto the back of the same legit product on Amazon can still land you in hot water if the store or manufacturer decides you’re stealing too many of their sales and reports you for Not As Described or Inauthentic.

If a copyright infringement complaint is legit, it will come both from Amazon and a lawyer. You will typically receive an email suggesting that you contact the rights owner to resolve the issue. DO NOT IGNORE THIS EMAIL. Even if you contact the rights owner immediately, you need to also immediately respond to this email and let Amazon know you are contacting the rights owner and working to resolve this and that you will update them in the next 24-72 hours. If you fail to respond, your account will be suspended in under 24 hours. If you are able to resolve your issue with the rights holder, make sure to ask them to email Amazon and let them know. Ask to be CC’d on the email so you can use it for reference in your appeal to Amazon. Your appeal should include the fact that you resolved the issue, a copy of the email from the right’s holder to Amazon, and what steps you will take to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

One of our clients had a nightmare story that proved to be impossible to get out of. They went to China for the Canton Fair and met with a supplier of no-tie shoelaces. They were excited because these were not yet being sold in the US and the market on Amazon for these was pretty open. The supplier showed them the patent paperwork, proving they were the owners of the rights and they granted our client permission to sell them in the States. The shoelaces sold well for nearly a year until they received the dreaded “Contact the Right’s Owner” email from Amazon. Super confused, they read the email several times. It did not give a deadline and said nothing of being in danger of suspension. This was a Saturday. Since most businesses aren’t open on the weekends, they contacted the right’s owner via email first thing on Monday. However, by Sunday night the Amazon account had been suspended. Long story short, the right’s owner insisted that the patent was held by several people, that all parties had to sign off on resellers, and that we were not allowed. This of course just happened to coincide with this “right’s owner’s” US debut of their ecommerce shop. There was no way to prove they were right as they did not have any of this caveat to the patent in writing, but neither did our client. They only had a copy of the patent paperwork, invoices, and the word of their supplier. Our client agreed to remove the item from their inventory and the right’s owner sent several emails to Amazon stating the dispute had been resolved. Several appeals, revised Plans of Action, and emails to Jeff Bezos later, Amazon still refused to reinstate the account. Sometimes, Amazon so desperately does not want to be in the middle of disputes like this, they refuse to reinstate the account just to avoid the hassle of dealing with it in the future. For this kind of issue - legitimate copyright infringement - it’s almost the kiss of death.

TL;DR Pay attention to reports and reviews. Make sure you have all your invoices in order and that you vet your supplier. Get your hands on any and all patent paperwork and be ready to defend your position. Don’t piggyback and piss people off. The sales aren’t worth it.