By now you have likely heard the news: Amazon is going to solve each and every brand protection issue your company has ever experienced come September 1st. They are going to physically hand you the instruction manual that explains who each seller is, where they are located, and precisely the best method to remove that seller from the marketplace.
Ok, we may be exaggerating a bit. But if you read some blog posts and social media coverage of this Amazon announcement concerning seller identification information, much of it sounds just like this blissful summary.
It’s true. The ecommerce brand protection world is eagerly awaiting the move by Amazon that will lift the veil on many of the grey market sellers out there. That being said, there are several caveats to the use of this new tool that we see as crucial in effectively taking advantage of the seller information provided:Before using seller information, your brand must have an enforceable legal foundation.
The inclination of many brands will be to immediately gather seller contact information and flood each seller with strongly worded cease and desist letters. We strongly caution against this urge. By attempting to enforce on your brand’s protected trademarks without a legally enforceable foundation consisting of a proper reseller program (reseller agreement, online selling agreement, etc.) that includes formalized product differences and quality controls, you are exposing your company to the potential for retaliatory complaints threatening legal action pursuant to the First Sale Doctrine. Before acting on the newly revealed seller information on Amazon, we recommend establishing or, if already created, reviewing your reseller policies and agreements in order to enforce safely.The Amazon seller information will still require verification and, often, further investigation.
Because of the varied nature of businesses’ structures, we anticipate the information provided about many sellers on Amazon will be of only minimal value. Dedicated investigatory teams, such as those we partner with at TrackStreet within our brand protection services, will be extremely helpful in tracking which entity is a subsidiary of the other entity that is a parent company of this other company that… (you get the idea). Without some level of investigatory expertise, your brand listings may be taken down under one storefront and then re-listed under that company’s subsidiary’s storefront the next day. Access to prompt and accurate seller information that includes linked entities and additional identifying information will be crucial moving forward.Scalable solutions for seller enforcement will be extremely important.
Even with the information of 100’s of unauthorized sellers at your fingertips, there is still the daunting task of confirming identities and addresses, creating effective communications, prioritizing the grey market threats, sending out the communications, tracking those that bounce and receive responses, and organizing the enforcement process per each seller. But hey, that’s it! Fortunately, we have seen this time-sucking predicament before and have an incredibly efficient solution available for our clients--TrackStreet. Our partnership in place with TrackStreet that allows our clients to affordably and in an automated fashion track, communicate with, and process enforcement efforts against grey market sellers saves your company personnel hours upon hours. Whether it’s our TrackStreet services or something similar, an automated solution that allows for manual work when desired will be essential.Unauthorized seller enforcement is merely one piece of a complete brand protection puzzle.
With the proper processes in place for identifying and removing unauthorized sellers, your brand is off to a great start when it comes to brand protection, we are confident that this new announcement by Amazon will certainly aid in that effort. Still, if your authorized sellers are consistently violating your minimum advertised price (MAP) policy, Amazon is going to mirror those lowering prices and this process will remain cyclical across the internet. Additionally, you may remove sellers but still have absolutely no idea from where those sellers received the product in the first place. Examining your brand’s internal processes, creating/confirming adequate and enforceable distributor agreements, and using a platform that can mass communicate with your sellers to request sourcing information are all important aspects of a holistic brand protection approach.
About The Author
Andy Buss is the Legal & Corporate Development Specialist at Retail Bloom. As both an attorney and an entrepreneur with a background in marketing, Andy provides a unique and valuable perspective when it comes to sustainable brand growth. When he's not sharpening his ping-pong skills in the break room, he can be found tirelessly pursuing the best way to keep brand clients ahead of looming online threats. Be sure to follow him on LinkedIn.
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