As attorneys specializing in brand protection, we obviously see serious advantage in trademark protection. Trademarks are source indicators (e.g. Oreos for cookies, Nordstrom for retail store services). Trademark registration provides a presumption of exclusive rights to use the trademark. This is true in the United States and almost every country in the world and it generally doesn’t matter if the trademark holder is small or large.
What is the Amazon Brand Registry?
In 2018, Amazon made trademark registration even more essential for its Amazon Sellers when it introduced the Amazon Brand Registry which offered greatly enhanced brand listings and also made effectuating takedowns for brand infringement much easier. The only requirement was a registered trademark from a qualifying company (which was the United States and India but has vastly expanded.) The issue was that a registered trademark takes at least ten months to obtain. So new brands had to wait several months to get on the Amazon Brand Registry, while older brands with registered trademarks had no issue. Totally unfair.
What’s the Issue?
In November 2019, Amazon created the Amazon IP Accelerator. Basically, if an Amazon Seller used one of eleven law firms on Amazon IP Accelerator lists, that Amazon Seller would get on the Brand Registry when their mark received a United States Patent and Trademark Serial No. (“USPTO”). A serial number is provided instantaneously when a trademark application is filed. I saw A TON of issues with IP Accelerator. First, under our rules of ethics, our duty is to represent our clients’ interests. Sometimes that involves representing our clients’ interests against Amazon (for example when they refuse to take down an infringer or launch their own competitive product that appears to violate a client’s instinctual property rights). So, in order to maintain our independence, we did not see it appropriate to partner with Amazon as it seems like an inherent conflict. Second, the program encouraged quick filings without requiring a comprehensive search (I have a number of clients who filed through IP Accelerator and then found out they infringed AFTER they were on the registry). Third, the cost was about twice as much as we charge. Again, without a comprehensive search, Amazon was never very transparent about the program and their attorney FAQs remained static since its launch. Beginning in summer 2020, we increasingly saw our clients, who obviously were not part of the Amazon IP Accelerator, get on the Brand Registry before trademark registration. We also were hearing buzz that Amazon was updating the Brand Registry to allow all marks that are pending registration to join the Amazon Brand Registry. Recently, Amazon made the formal change: in the United States and several other countries, any Amazon Seller who gets a USPTO Serial # can get on the Brand Registry.
How Does This Affect My Business?
Unless our clients are rolling out the next cure for cancer (in which case who cares what the name of it is), brand is everything and everything is brand. I created TotalTM ® (our trademark process) to provide our clients comprehensive and holistic trademark protection at a predictable and fair price. A comprehensive search and opinion is always part of TotalTM ®, it is the only way to protect the brand. So, for any potential client thinking about the Amazon IP Accelerator, Amazon just made that program irrelevant. A reminder, we can provide more comprehensive brand protection services at a lower price point (of course we think we will do a better job :)). Our comprehensive searches are generally done within 72 hours of engagement, and we can get our clients on the Amazon Brand Registry within hours after that. Again, registering trademarks are essential to most every entrepreneur. The Amazon Brand Registry is essential to most entrepreneurs who sell on Amazon (why an eCommece seller should not be focused on Amazon alone is a topic for another blog). In conclusion, Amazon IP Accelerator seems to be a failed experiment in Amazon entering the legal market, it currently has no real value to Amazon Sellers, period.