Earlier this year, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer. Twenty-two years ago, Jeff Bezos attributed Amazon’s upcoming success to its strong branding:
“There’s nothing about our model that can’t be copied over time. But you know, McDonald’s got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world.”
Today, Amazon’s Alexa and Kindle lines are household names, and Amazon owns nearly 1,000 active U.S. trademark applications and registrations. Because of Amazon’s success, many companies use Amazon as their sole sales channel. A problem arises when those companies’ products are copied and sold on Amazon.
It’s no secret that despite its heavy emphasis on branding, Amazon’s marketplace has an intellectual property infringement problem. So, what is a company to do when their brands and products get copied over time? Copy Amazon and file trademark applications. Amazon owns thousands of trademark registrations and applications in the U.S. alone.
A registered mark is required for enforcement through Amazon’s Brand Registry or Project Zero, both of which provide quick ways to monitor and take down infringing products. Common law rights are insufficient – Amazon will only remove an infringing product if the USPTO has issued a registered trademark. Other companies, such as eBay and Alibaba, also limit the use of their trademark infringement removal services to registered trademark holders. Trademarks can take time to issue, however, so it is best to file early and secure rights before they are needed.
WHIPgroup is leading counsel for U.S. and international technology companies. We specialize in patent and trademark law.
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