There's lots of scary information online about IP Claims for Amazon sellers.
Especially if you dare to visit the Amazon Seller Forums. (Want my advice? Stay away from those forums!).
If you were to believe the hype, you might be too afraid to source inventory at all.
Starting in 2017, Amazon sellers noticed an uptick in IP (Intellectual Property) claims on their accounts. Some were authentic and others seemed to be scare tactics from competitors.
Ever since then, it's been the responsibility of the Amazon seller to steer clear of brands that are a little too eager to file IP Complaints with Amazon.
Personally, I don't think IP Claims are deserving of all the hysteria online. But I do think that it's important for sellers to educate themselves on IP violations and claims.
Today I'm going to break down what you need to know about IP claims as an Amazon seller. You'll learn what IP claims are, how to tell when you've received a genuine claim, and how to respond to one. Most importantly, you'll learn how to avoid getting an IP claim in the first place.
IP Claims for Amazon Sellers
On Amazon, there are three main types of IP rights: copyrights, trademarks, and patents. I think that most Retail Arbitrage sellers who get IP claims will get them for Copyright or Trademark. I'll give you a more detailed definition straight from Amazon:
- Copyrights are legal protections for original works of authorship
- Trademarks are legal protections for a word, symbol, design, or combination of the same that a company uses to identify goods and services
- Patents are legal protections for inventions
If you violate any of these intellectual property rights, Amazon may send you an IP infringement notice (or IP claim).
What Is an IP Claim
A brand owner (or their legal team) may contact Amazon to issue an IP complaint for a specific ASIN. In doing so, they allege that the other sellers on the Amazon listing are unlawfully using the company's intellectual property.
Obviously a brand owner or rights holder is well within their rights to protect their own IP. However, Amazon makes it so easy for brands to file IP claims that the policy is often abused.
I recently received an IP claim for a popular toy (as did many other sellers in my community). When I contacted the rights holder (a legal assistant for the parent company), she told me that she had filed the IP claims “by mistake.” It still took one month to get that mistaken claim off of my account!
I do think that over time Amazon will make sure that the IP complaint system works better for enforcing genuine IP violations and letting fewer “false positives” slip through the cracks.
These false claims are very stressful for sellers and do take some time to resolve. But until the system improves, it's on us to handle the claims (or prevent them) as they come.
IP Claims vs Brand Restrictions
Before we dive deeper into IP claims, I want to address a common misconception.
IP Claims are not the same as Brand Restrictions. You can receive an IP Claim on an ASIN even if you have approval to sell that brand in Seller Central.
So, unfortunately, if you receive an IP claim, a response to Amazon stating that you're approved to sell won't cut it.
For example, I have approval to sell the Bendy brand of toys. However, I know that Bendy issues lots of IP Claims so I still avoid them. I'll be telling you more about that later.
How to Tell if You've Received a Real IP Claim
A legitimate IP Claim will come to you in two places: 1) in an email from Amazon and 2) in your Performance Notifications in Seller Central. The email may have a subject line like “Notice: Policy Warning” (although Amazon changes up the language from time to time).
Legitimate IP Claims do not come from buyer messages. If you receive a buyer message from someone claiming to be a rights holder or brand owner, you do not have to respond to their request.
You can either mark the buyer message “No Response Needed” or you can report the message to Amazon.
If a brand owner wants to restrict their brand on Amazon, they need to do so by contacting Amazon directly.
Here's an example of a message from a “Compliance Team” that came in the form of a Buyer Message:
Although it's safe to mark these buyer messages as “no response needed,” you will need to handle any legitimate IP claims that come through via Amazon.
Here's what that mistaken IP claim looked like in my Performance Notifications in Seller Central. I received the same thing via an email from firstname.lastname@example.org:
If you have received an IP Claim, you can also find it in Seller Central by going to Performance > Account Health > Product Policy Compliance > Received Intellectual Property.
What About Suspected IP Claims?
In the Product Policy Compliance section of Account Health, you'll also see a category called Suspected Intellectual Property Violations.
This was a new addition for 2019. They don't seem to have a negative effect on account health. Instead, they seem to indicate ASINs that were removed from the Amazon catalog.
Of the ASINs that I've seen flagged in this category, it looks like they're mainly for licensed items where the listing title was created incorrectly.
For example, a set of AME brand pajamas with Minecraft characters on them using the word “Minecraft” in the title or brand.
How IP Claims Affect Your Account Health
I'm sure what you really want to know about an IP Claim is will it get your account suspended.
The answer should be No. A first time IP Claim should not get your entire account suspended. Typically only your selling privileges for specific ASINs will be suspended.
But if you end up with several IP Claims on your account, you end up with a higher risk of account suspension. Having your account suspended is a MUCH bigger deal than having to recall one or two ASINs. The appeal process is much more difficult as well.
So if you do end up with an IP Claim, be sure to respond to it appropriately and quickly.
How to Respond to an IP Claim
Your IP Claim should contain contact details for the rights owner (as shown in the screenshot I shared earlier). They should be the first ones you contact.
You may want to start by asking for the basis of their complaint and assuring them that you are taking their complaint seriously. Hopefully their reply will help you see if you really did violate their intellectual property or if the complaint isn't accurate.
Once you understand the complaint, and feel you are not in violation, you can ask the brand to issue a retraction with Amazon. They may do this if they see that you are not in violation or if you agree to close your listings of the affected ASINs.
Of course, there is always a chance that the brand will ignore you and never reply to your email. I would send a followup email at 24-48 hours. That way you can let Amazon know that you contacted the rights owner twice and received no reply.
It's important that you show Amazon that you're taking this seriously and that you're trying to do the right thing.
An IP Claim Template You Can Use
If the Brand won't issue a retraction, it's important that you write directly to Amazon. Even if you don't intend to sell the ASIN anymore, it's still good to get the IP Claim removed from your account.
Here is a basic template that you can modify to fit your circumstances:
Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. All of our inventory for this product was purchased brand new from [store], an authorized distributor. Attached, you will find a copy of our invoice for this product. You will see that we purchased [#] units on [purchase date] and sent in [#] units to an Amazon Fulfillment Center on [subsequent inbound shipping date].
This product was purchased in brand new condition from [store], it was carefully compared with the existing Amazon listing to make sure that it matched the description, title, and image. It was then sent in to Fulfillment by Amazon. As this item was purchased from an authorized source and this inventory can be traced back directly to the manufacturer, this is not an intellectual property rights violation.
We have been selling exclusively on Amazon for [length of time], and we would never risk our business by sending in product that was not brand new, authentic, and conforming to all of Amazon’s policies and procedures.
Please let me know if you need any further information to resolve this issue.
When you attach scanned copies of the invoice, feel free to circle or highlight the matching UPC. This usually works even for retail store receipts like Target and Walmart. Having a paper trail (receipts) can help get the claim removed faster.
If that doesn't work, you can always just remove the affected ASIN(s) from your inventory and let Amazon know that you have done so.
How to Avoid IP Claims in the Future
They say that prevention is the best medicine. This is definitely true for IP claims!
The best prevention strategy I know of is to avoid selling brands that are known to issue IP Claims. Yes, even if you're “approved” to sell them in your scanning app.
Now let me state the obvious: there is no way to know for sure if a brand files IP claims. Unlike brand and category restrictions, nothing in the Amazon Seller App will tell you about an “IP Notice.” And I'm sure it won't surprise you that Amazon doesn't share a list of these brands with their sellers.
In an ideal world, these brands would go through Amazon's Brand Registry and become restricted brands to third-party sellers. That's a much better solution than issuing false IP claims. But in the meantime….it's seller beware!
Be Aware of “Troublesome” Brands
Your best course of action is to become aware of “troublesome” brands who are known for issuing IP Complaints.
This unofficial list of brands is pretty long. In fact, we share a list of known brands with our Amazon Boot Camp students.
You may also find out about these brands if you hang out in Facebook groups with other sellers. I know that in our BoloMart Facebook group, the members are generous about sharing these brand names. We sellers have to look out for one another 🙂
I know that it's easy to be a “lonely entrepreneur” who doesn't talk to other sellers, but this is just one good reason to find a supportive community. You can learn from other people's past experiences and try to avoid ever getting an IP complaint.
Try the IP Alert Chrome Extension
The easiest way I've found to keep track of these brands is through a new Chrome extension.
It's called IP Alert and it does just what the name suggests. It's a very simple Chrome extension that alerts you when a brand is known to issue IP Claims.
I've already mentioned that there is no “official” list of brands, so the brands in IP Alert are all user suggested. But it's a great way to easily see if a product is risky. They update the extension pretty regularly so that it stays current.
Once installed, here's what happens when you visit an Amazon product page:
You have to press the “Ok” button to clear the pop-up message which means there's no way to overlook that this brand (Bendy) files IP Complaints. In addition to the pop-up, there's also a Red dot next to the brand name.
I mentioned earlier that I'm approved to sell this brand and that's why this extension is so helpful. Let's say I went to list this product in Seller Central via Add a Product:
This shows me that I am approved to sell this ASIN. So when I click on “See all product details” to go to the Amazon detail page, that's when I'd get the helpful IP Alert warning.
Download the IP Alert Chrome Extension
If you're interested in using the IP Alert extension, it's available for purchase for a one-time price (no monthly subscription needed).
The lifetime access price is $99, but readers of The Selling Family can save $25 with coupon code TSF25.
Click here to learn more about IP Alert and claim your discount.
Protect Your Amazon Account Health
A little knowledge about IP claims can go a long way in protecting your account health on Amazon.
Hopefully you're in a situation where you're just trying to avoid future IP Claims
But even if you've received an IP Complaint from a brand, just follow the suggestions I outlined above to respond in an appropriate manner.
Have you found a simple way to resolve IP Claims either with Amazon or the brands themselves? If so, share your success in the comments below.