Today we continue with our two-part series on dealing with counterfeit and intellectual property (IP) claims on Amazon. Our focus for this week’s episode is what the best course of action would be if a brand reaches out to you and asks you to stop selling an item, or what to do if you get an actual IP complaint in Seller Central on your selling account.
We also cover how you should respond if you still aren’t sure if the brand complaint is actually legitimate. If you haven’t listened to part one of this two-part series, be sure to go back and take a listen so we’re all on the same page as we jump into this episode. We want to help you be as prepared as possible if this type of issue ever crosses your path on your Amazon journey!
Listen on the podcast player below.
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Key points from Episode 182:
- A 90-second summary of last week’s episode.
- IP and copyright infringement claims and what to do next.
- Steps to follow when responding to claims (if you aren’t sure if the claim is legitimately from a brand).
- Rebecca shares some insights on how to script your response message.
- How the response can be met (by the original sender).
- How to go about a situation where the brand refuses to continue a conversation with you.
- Frustrations involved with receiving claims from brand owners.
- Why we stress the importance of having a proper “paper” trail.
- We conclude the episode with a few helpful resources.
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
- Podcast Episode 181 – Dealing with Counterfeit or Intellectual Property (IP) Claims on Amazon (Part 1)
- Open a Ticket with Seller Support
- Amazon Seller Central
- IP Alert (mobile and desktop app)
- Use the coupon code FULLTIME30 for $30 off the price
- Account or ASIN suspended? Get it back with these services:
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Episode 182 Transcript:
[0:00:01.8] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Full-Time FBA Show. In each episode, it’s our goal to help you turn part-time hours into a full-time income, selling almost anything on Amazon. Now, your hosts of the show, Stephen and Rebecca Smotherman.
[0:00:21.9] STEPHEN: Welcome to episode number 182 of the Full-Time FBA Show. Today, we’re doing part two of a series of going over dealing with counterfeit or intellectual property claims on Amazon, how to make sure you’re making some good choices with that and with me to talk about this is my wife, Rebecca. What is up Rebecca?
[0:00:38.6] REBECCA: Hey there, I wish I could say I was excited about this topic. I find it really challenging, it’s not my favorite but it’s important and so we are not going to skip over it and we’re not going to make this podcast about what is just about fun about selling on Amazon but we’re also going to cover the hard things too.
[0:00:55.1] STEPHEN: I love that attitude. Well, let’s get to it in today’s episode of The Full-Time FBA Show.
[0:01:02.8] REBECCA: Again, we want to remind you this is part two of a two-part series on this topic. So if you haven’t listened to episode number 181 yet, be sure and go there now to fulltimefba.com/181 or listen on your favorite podcast player just in case you need a refresher, Stephen is going to share with you a 90-second summary of last week’s show just to get us kind of started as an introduction and also I’m timing you, Stephen, I’ve got my stopwatch over here. 90 seconds.
[0:01:27.7] STEPHEN: 90 seconds on the clock. All right, let’s go. So some brands are now submitting claims to Amazon for intellectual property infringement, copyright infringement, even counterfeit claims on some seller accounts.
Now, intellectual property, copyright, and infringements are usually from the brand owner about the listing, not your item but the listing is using a image or bullet point or something, of the brand name without permission. Counterfeit claims are obviously, a complaint that you are selling a fake product, it’s from neither the brand nor the buyer.
Now, there are some bad apple sellers out there trying to scare off their competition, acting like brand owners and threatening legal action. The good apple seller, is that a thing? Good apple seller?
[0:02:07.4] REBECCA: Sure.
[0:02:07.6] STEPHEN: Does not stop selling this brand on Amazon. So we talked about last week how you might be able to tell the difference between the two and sellers were just scared of what to do next and even scared to even continue selling on Amazon, not knowing what to do. So last week we talked about, in detail, how to best handle counterfeit claims and today, we’re going to jump into more of the IP, copyright infringement claims, and what to do next.
[0:02:28.1] REBECCA: Okay, that was closer to 70 seconds, so good job.
[0:02:30.6] STEPHEN: Oh wow, that’s really cool I even had a few little flubs that we edited out too.
[0:02:35.3] REBECCA: Yeah, pretty good.
[0:02:35.4] STEPHEN: Okay.
[0:02:36.6] REBECCA: All right, so today we’re going to be discussing the best course of action if a brand reaches out to you and asks you to stop selling an item or what to do if you get an actual IP complaint in Seller Central on your selling account. Plus, we’re going to show you how to respond if you’re still not sure if the brand complaint is legitimately from the brand or if it’s coming from a competitor who is trying to scare you off.
So the best way to handle these claims is going to be very similar regardless of whether you suspect the sender is a competitor or if it’s a legit brand reaching out to you. So when you get the message, you need to know exactly how to respond and these are the steps we recommend that you follow.
First, open up a ticket with seller support within Seller Central and notify them of the situation and just ask for clarification. Ask them if this item is in fact restricted for you to sell and we will include in the show notes of this podcast episode a link for how to open up a ticket if you’re not familiar with how to do that.
So the second thing is, when you communicate with seller support, be sure to copy and paste the message that you received from the “brand” since we’re still not sure if it is an actual brand or not. Be sure you include the name and contact info for the person who sent you the message. If the message does turn out to be from a brand, you want to have a paper trail showing that you are making every effort to go through the proper channels and do the right thing with Seller Central.
The third thing you should do is send a response to the sender of the email. Include text in the response along these lines. You could say something like, “I apologize for any mistake on my part in selling this item, this is not a counterfeit” or “This does not infringe on any intellectual copyright laws, I’m selling the item because Amazon says it’s not restricted for me to list. If you do not want other sellers selling the item, I suggest you work with Amazon to restrict your brand or the specific ASIN. I’ve reached out to Amazon to find out how to proceed from here.”
If you know for sure that the email came from a legitimate brand owner or representative, you could also include a line in your response such as this one, “What do I need to do to get approval from you to sell this item on Amazon and open a wholesale account with you?” This could be an open door for you to get a legitimate account for the wholesale of an item. So take that opportunity when you’ve got it.
[0:04:54.1] STEPHEN: Absolutely. So with the message you’re sending them, you’re responding. You’re not admitting to anything but you’re letting the sender, whether they’re real or fake, know that you are a competent seller who understands Amazon guidelines and what happens after you send your response could go a couple of different ways.
If you received no further communication from this brand or fake brand owner, you can probably assume that the original message came from a competitor who now realizes you’re not going to go away. You’re not going to be scared off this easily or if you receive further communication from the brand owner, make every effort to work with them in Seller Central to make the situation right.
Again, always create a paper trail, showing that you are working to figure out the best situation and the best solution, and who knows, you might end up getting a wholesale account from the brand this way.
[0:05:41.6] REBECCA: Another strategy that some legitimate brand owners use is to send you a message claiming IP or copyright infringement but they ignore any of your replies. Instead, they only send a second or third threatening message over the span of a few days. Once again, with that claim of IP or copyright infringement.
After they’re emailed you three times over a certain period of time, then they go to Amazon and say, “We emailed the seller about their IP and copyright infringement on three separate occasions and the seller refuses to remove their stock from their Amazon sales page” and then when that happens, Amazon will without any fact checking suspend your ability to list or sell that item on Amazon. Frustrating, isn’t it?
[0:06:20.9] STEPHEN: Yeah, but I love the tone.
[0:06:21.5] REBECCA: Yeah. I mean, that’s how I feel about it. So the best way to respond to this if the brand will not continue the conversation with you and will not respond at all to your legitimate request for them to be straight forward, the best response to that is to open a ticket in Seller Central and tell Amazon that the brand owner won’t respond to you and only just keep sending you these threatening messages.
Include in your message, a screenshot of your attempts at communicating with them and then politely request Amazon to remove that complaint due to the brand owner’s lack of response. You can even tell Amazon that the brand might be trying to control the sales of their products through IP and copyright complaints, which is, wait for it, against the terms of service for Amazon. I know, it’s awful to even think about people using those as a strategy but people do some crazy things.
[0:07:09.8] STEPHEN: Absolutely.
[0:07:10.1] REBECCA: To like try to control their sales.
[0:07:11.5] STEPHEN: Yes, yup. So is this worth all the time and energy to fight these IP complaints, the counterfeit complaints? Yes. A part of the frustration with receiving these claims stems from having inventory at the Amazon warehouse that you could theoretically no longer sell on Amazon if the brand owner prohibits it.
You know, if you only have one or two items in stock, it might not even be worth your time or hassle to deal with this and just kind of remove those items from Amazon, sell them on eBay or somewhere else, and just kind of move on.
On the other hand, if you have many of the suspected violating items in stock then it’s still a hassle but it might be worth your time to clear up the claim, produce three seats for the invoices necessary, go through the proper channels to either gain approval or otherwise resolve the situation.
Even if you have to remove the items back from the warehouse and store them yourself until that situation is resolved and then you can send them back in once it’s resolved, at least you are only out of the money of the removal order and then shipping the item back to Amazon.
[0:08:12.3] REBECCA: We just can’t emphasize enough though that having the paper trail is so important. In the unlikely event that you get suspended for something along these lines, like I said, unlikely event that you get suspended, you want to make sure that you have created a paper trail such as the one that we’ve been discussing and make sure that you keep all of your receipts and invoices. Have all of your paperwork in order.
[0:08:37.2] STEPHEN: Keep them forever. I still have invoices from 2013.
[0:08:40.5] REBECCA: Do you really?
[0:08:41.5] STEPHEN: I do.
[0:08:41.8] REBECCA: Okay. Well.
[0:08:42.3] STEPHEN: Yeah. For tax purposes mostly but also, I mean, just in case.
[0:08:47.1] REBECCA: Okay, apparently we need to do some decluttering, okay.
[0:08:50.4] STEPHEN: So most of the time, when Amazon does decide to suspend selling privileges over an IP or counterfeit claim, they usually don’t suspend the seller’s entire account at first. Usually, they’ll just suspend the selling privileges for a particular ASIN or maybe just the brand. In these cases, you have time to work things out with Seller Central and the brand to clear up the situation.
Apologize, promise not to sell the item or brand anymore, whatever you can to protect your overall account. An account suspension usually doesn’t happen after one incident also but after multiple incidences. Incidences, incidents? Yeah, I don’t know which word is right.
[0:09:26.1] REBECCA: I think both.
[0:09:27.7] STEPHEN: Okay, let’s do that.
[0:09:28.2] REBECCA: I don’t know.
[0:09:28.2] STEPHEN: So take care of the problems as they come up so that you don’t need to worry about all of a sudden getting a dramatic suspension out of nowhere. So stop selling the problem item, shake off the dust, learn whatever lessons you need to learn from that situation and move on to finding better inventory to sell on Amazon.
[0:09:43.8] REBECCA: Overall, we think that the possibility of receiving IP infringement or counterfeit claims on your account should be taken as a speed bump, not a dead end, not an obstacle but just a speed bump that you can overcome. Many sellers are so fearful of these types of claims that that’s why they’re declaring retail arbitrage is dead as we discussed in the first episode of this series.
But we think that those types of reactions are exaggerated and unnecessary and overly dramatic. A lot of times when people say that, they have a reason for it. Either they’ve been burned themselves somehow because they made a bad choice or they are trying to sell you something honestly.
[0:10:23.1] STEPHEN: Right.
[0:10:23.4] REBECCA: So hopefully this podcast episode has given you a starting point for how to think through the possibilities and handle the situation if it arises for you in your business. That’s a big if too, this is not something that happens just every day all the time.
[0:10:36.9] STEPHEN: Yeah but we’re talking about it just in case, so you have a way to be prepared for if it happens but we’re going to close out today’s episode with a few resources to help you out. You know, if you find yourself with a suspended ASIN and that ASIN is very important to you to get reinstated or worse, an Amazon account suspension, then we have some highly recommended services that can help you get those ASINs or accounts reinstated.
We’ll put those links in our show notes to the services we most recommend and there is another resource that can help you via both retail arbitrage and online arbitrage sourcing, how you can know most of the brands that file IP claims before you even source them. It is a really helpful tool that will tell you a brand that you are thinking of buying if it has a history of filing IP claims against other sellers.
This tool is called IP Alert and it can help you know before you buy that brand. I mean, if it is like a trigger happy on filing IP claims for all the people trying to sell this item. So the tool can save you a lot of time and heartache. So go to fulltimefba.com/ipalert and use the code “fulltime30” for $30 off the price of this desktop and mobile tool that will help you avoid those IP claims or at least lower the opportunities and chances of getting an IP claim for your Amazon business.
[0:11:50.4] REBECCA: Yeah, if you do a lot of retail arbitrage and online arbitrage, that tool can be really helpful for you.
[0:11:56.1] STEPHEN: Yeah, that’s good for both desktop and mobile, so you have no excuse not to use it and be prepared.
[0:12:01.1] REBECCA: All right, well, one last thing before we wrap up. If you are not on our newsletter list, be sure that you join. We send out an email every week, sometimes twice a week with links to videos blog posts, and other podcast episodes that would be helpful for you and your business. Be sure and join at fulltimefba.com and once you’re subscribed, you should look for that email from us.
[0:12:26.8] REBECCA: Thank you so much for joining us for this week’s episode of The Full-Time FBA Show. As a reminder, you can find the show notes and the transcript for this episode at fulltimefba.com/182 because this is episode number 182.
[0:12:40.7] STEPHEN: Next week on the show, we’re going to answer the question, “Is Amazon saturated with too many sellers?” And the answer to that question is really going to impact your Amazon business. So you want to come join us back next week on The Full-Time FBA Show.
[0:12:54.6] REBECCA: The answer will surprise you.
[0:12:55.8] STEPHEN: Oh yeah, so let’s do the click bait.
[0:12:57.2] REBECCA: Just kidding. Just kidding, it will not surprise you.
[0:12:59.2] STEPHEN: I mean, it might.
[0:13:00.0] REBECCA: If you know us, you know the answer already, is Amazon saturated with too many sellers? What do you think we’re going to say?
[0:13:05.1] STEPHEN: Come back next week and find out. We’ll see you then.
[0:13:10.9] ANNOUNCER: That is all for this episode of The Full-Time FBA Show. So head over to fulltimefba.com/podcast, where you will find the show notes and links from this episode. While you’re there, subscribe to our newsletter where you’ll get several free downloads of our popular and helpful Amazon FBA resources. Now, take action on what you have learned today, so you can find success at turning part-time hours into a full-time income with Amazon FBA.