Whether you're a top name brand or a small business owner, the Amazon marketplace can be both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, Amazon has made it easier for merchants to reach hundreds of millions of new customers around the world. Over 300,000 small and midsize businesses in the U.S. started selling on Amazon in 2017. Half of all items Amazon customers purchased last year were sold by SMBs.
On the other hand, since Amazon's barrier to entry is low and shipment inspections are limited, it opens the door for counterfeiters to sell knockoff products. Fake products are one of Amazon's biggest problems. These products negatively affect both buyers and legitimate merchants. In fact, many brands refuse to do business with Amazon because of widespread counterfeiting on the marketplace.
Amazon's crackdown on counterfeits
To combat the issue, Amazon released Brand Registry 2.0 last year – a revamped program that makes it faster and easier for brand owners and manufacturers to identify and stop counterfeiters. Previously, the Brand Registry program only required an image of the product and packaging with the brand name visible, and a link to an active website that included the brand name in the URL to prove ownership and enroll. Now, a registered U.S. trademark is required.
Trademark registration can take up to 10 months, but the wait is well worth it. Trademarked and registered brands receive sole possession of product listings associated with their brand, as well as access to Amazon's Enhanced Brand Content program. This allows them to customize their product listings with images, headers and bullet points. Trademarked and registered brands also have more sway in disputes over product listings with non-trademarked, unregistered sellers. These benefits give merchants who go through the lengthy trademark process a distinct advantage over pretenders who can't or won't.
The previous Brand Registry program required brands to manually review their product listings for counterfeit violations. They then had to place an order and examine the product to verify that it was fake before they could file a claim. The accusing merchant had to prove the product was inauthentic instead of the merchant in question proving it was authentic. Then it could take up to several weeks for Amazon to respond.
Brand Registry 2.0 is different. Brands have access to a dedicated support team as well as to a new tool that lets them quickly and easily identify and report counterfeit violations. Merchants are no longer required to place a test order before submitting a claim, and Amazon has agreed to respond to all counterfeit claims in four hours or less.
Inside Brand Registry 2.0
Brand Registry 2.0 also allows you to assign various roles (such as administrator, rights owner or registered agent) to different employees or entities. This lets you create a more robust system to guard your brand and delegate e-commerce brand management tasks if necessary.
The following documentation is necessary to enroll in Brand Registry 2.0:
- A live registered trademark identical to the product/packaging brand name. At this time, only trademarks registered in these countries are acceptable: United States, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, India, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
- The following images and lists are also required:
- Images of your brand's logo
- Images of your products and packaging with trademarked brand name
- Product categories where your brand will be listed
- Countries where your brand's products are manufactured and distributed
What Brand Registry 2.0 can't do
While Brand Registry 2.0 allows brands and manufacturers to prevent counterfeiters, it can't do everything. It does not allow you to prevent unauthorized, non-counterfeit merchants or minimum advertised price (MAP) violators. Amazon only takes action against merchants who list counterfeit products. It won't go after and block merchants who obtain and list branded products without consent, or who advertise branded products below the MAP. Amazon considers these to be distribution problems, not authenticity problems, and believes it's the brand's responsibility to control who sells its products and at what price.
Brands that want to prevent unauthorized, non-counterfeit merchants or MAP violators must proactively do it themselves and/or be asked to join Amazon's invitation-only Brand Gating program. Brand Gating allows brands to not only own their product listings but also fully control which merchants can use them. If another merchant wants to sell the brand's products on the brand's listing, they have to fill out an application and pay a fee.
Does 'grandfathering' apply to Brand Registry 2.0?
If you’re signed up with the old brand registry, you're not automatically enrolled in Brand Registry 2.0. You must apply all over again due to the tighter anti-counterfeiting procedures. You're still covered under the old terms, but you'll have none of the new protections.
Brand Registry 2.0 is an improvement
There's no doubt that Amazon will continue to have a major impact on the retail industry both online and off. It commands great customer loyalty by offering a convenient one-click checkout and free two-day shipping through Prime. It also provides brands and small business owners with an unprecedented opportunity to grow. Offering an updated and more effective way to curb counterfeiting through the Brand Registry 2.0 program will help make the Amazon marketplace a safer and fairer place to do business. Both merchants and customers can benefit from this new addition.