Trademarks for Amazon: All you Need to Know
Brand Registry, trademarks, Amazon IP Accelerator may sound alien words for someone new to doing business on Amazon. It is important to know what they mean as they can protect your brand on Amazon, and help you increase sales.
Tina Loza is an Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer, and Founder and Managing Partner at Loza & Loza. Her firm deals with trademarks, patents, copyrights, and litigation and was one of the first few firms that were part of the IP Accelerator program starting in 2019.
In a conversation with India Sourcing Network, Tina gives some valuable information on trademarks and patents for Amazon sellers.
Watch the full interview with Tina here or read a summary below.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights
Tina calls this the trifecta of her everyday encounters with Amazon sellers. According to her, it is beneficial for you to know the terminologies that make up the language of Intellectual Property discussion. You should be equipped with these terms when talking to an attorney about IP.
A patent is the document that shows you have the official right to be the only person to make, use or sell a product or an invention.
- When you come up with an idea for a product, which you think is unique and can be sold, then you need to file a patent application for it.
- Patents legally protect your invention.
- A utility patent protects how the invention is used.
- A design patent protects the way a product looks.
- Most Amazon sellers apply for design patents.
Copyright is the right to copy. The original creators of a product give authorization to reproduce their work.
- These can be words, a song, a blog, a drawing, textual work, visual or artistic expressions.
- An Amazon brand may have a logo as their design trademark and a copyright may be needed for a special graphic design you may be using as your logo.
A trademark is a special symbol, design or name that a company or a brand puts on its products and that cannot be used by any other company or brand.
- They protect source identification.
- It is the way we can differentiate between two brands by identifying the source of the items.
- When you choose an Amazon brand name, that becomes the trademark of the brand.
A seller on Amazon will mostly have to deal with issues surrounding trademarks. Here is a quick checklist to tick all that is to know about trademarks.
- Functions of a trademark: It distinguishes the brand from others and embodies the goodwill a brand enjoys. A trademark is an assurance to the customer that the brand items will have the same consistency and quality over time.
- Benefits of a trademark: Trademarks are proof of your brand’s existence and evidence of your ownership of the brand. It discourages fraudsters from operating under your brand. Trademark information is available in public records, for example at the United States Patent and Trademark (USPTO) office.
A US registration can be used as the basis for registering your trademark in other countries. Trademarks can be registered with the US customs to stop someone else shipping their goods with the same trademark.
A trademark registration helps in the protection of the brand on Amazon, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and eBay.
- Trademark identifiers: There are two items used as identifiers, ‘r’ and ‘™’. You can start using the ‘™’ mark as soon as you get a trademark even if your trademark is not registered. Once it is registered in the USPTO, the mark “r” can be used.
- Trademark infringement: A trademark infringement is the unauthorized usage of a mark that is identical or deceptively similar to a registered trademark. It could be possible that there are two similar trademarks and they are dealing with the same product. Then the owner of the mark registered on the later date is the trademark infringer. Amazon Brand Registry allows one brand to list and sell a number of goods under one brand, even if it’s not in their trademark application.
- Trademark due diligence: Google your trademark and run it on the USPTO search to see if there are no other marks alike to yours. If there are many similar trademarks already registered with identical or related goods, your trademark may get rejected.
- Choosing your trademark: For trademarks to be accepted by the trademark office, always try to choose something unique. The more arbitrary a mark, the more likely you will succeed in getting it registered and making it stronger. For example, the Apple trademark for computers has nothing to do with computers and is therefore completely arbitrary and therefore a really strong mark.
Avoid completely descriptive marks, as they are likely to get a merely descriptive rejection.
If you get a descriptive mark rejection, you can normally amend the application to what’s called the supplemental register. However, Amazon does not allow marks on the supplemental register to be part of Brand Registry. Your Amazon brand name has to be identical to the literal element of the mark.
The way to get around this descriptive rejection and supplemental register is to file for your logo instead of a word mark.
In addition, avoid surnames and geographical locations, which can also trigger rejections.
It’s important to note that if you file a logo for Amazon, your logo should not have any letters in it. This doesn’t matter for the trademark office, but it matters for Amazon.
As your brand name is displayed on your Amazon listings, any letters in your logo will be inserted before the brand name.
For example, if your brand name is Qualtish and you have the letter “Q” in your logo, your brand name will be listed on Amazon as “Q Qualtish”. This is because Amazon says your brand name has to be identical to the literal elements of the mark.
- Timeline for trademark registration: You can approach an IP lawyer through Amazon Seller Central or contact them directly. After signing an engagement letter and paying a retainer to the lawyer, they will file the details of your application at the USPTO which takes a day or two. Alongside, the lawyer also reports it to Amazon. Amazon will take two weeks to add the brand to Brand Registry.
The trademark office will take two to three months to process your application and your trademark may take upto a year to register. However, with the IP Accelerator program, you can access all features of Amazon Brand Registry after two weeks. Earlier you had to wait until the full registration of the trademark to get into Brand Registry.
- Use and intent to use applications
A trademark office will file a use application only when you show proof of selling your items in the US. The intent to use application comes into the picture when you are not selling yet. Both types of applications work equally for Amazon.
For use application, you will have to show the following to the trademark office:
- The proof of ownership of the mark.
- The brand name.
- The date of the first sale in the US.
- Proof that the brand is currently selling in the US.
- Picture of your brand showing your mark on the product.
- Product packaging or tags attached to the product.
For intent to use application:
- The mark will not register unless the ‘Use in Commerce’ is shown to the PTO and that happens only when you are selling your products in the US.
- Once you want to start selling, you have to file a statement of use and that will cost another fee.
- After a year you will have to show proof of usage of the mark to register.
- For that you will have to show the date when you started selling along with the photo of your product.
- The trademark officer can reject a product if they suspect that the picture is photoshopped or looks like a digital alteration. It is advisable to take a picture that is a raw, non-marketing shot, preferably from your mobile.
- You can file for an extension if you are not selling at the time a statement of use is due.
Increasingly, Amazon is focusing on and giving preference to products that are sold by trademarked brands.
As an Amazon seller, it is essential to register your trademark so you can access Brand Registry, and your listing is protected from hijackers. With Brand Registry, you also get access to advanced analytics, which gives you data on search terms, customer buying behavior and more.
Trademarks also help make your business more defensible and therefore more sellable to an aggregator if you decide to exit.
Loza & Loza is our recommended trademark attorney for the US, and you can contact them via their webpage here: https://indiasourcing.net/loza