4 Brand Protection Musts Before You Even Think About Listing Your Private Label Products on Amazon: DOWNLOAD NOW! >>

Don't be a Vongle

What is a VONGLE?  I don't even know.

What does that brand name/trademark sound like to you? I don't know about you, but I HATE it.

What does it MEAN to you?

How does it make you feel? Does it conjure up any emotional feeling within you?

This term is a great example of a "brand name" that has no meaning. It doesn't elicit any emotional reaction ~ at least not for me. Nothing positive, at least.

And it's a GREAT example of why it's important to create trademarks that conjure some type of emotional reaction in consumers. And it's an even better example of the dangers of "coined" trademarks.

Coined marks can be really great from a legal perspective ~ generally, they are easy to register and they are "distinctive."

But, keep in mind that coined marks pose challenges from the marketing perspective, because they are hard to remember and sometimes challenging to share via word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, as I mentioned before, coined marks tend to fail to conjure emotional reactions in consumers. And emotional reactions ~ especially positive ones ~ are key.

Fortunately, I've never had to work on a Vongle. My clients select some pretty rad trademarks.

But, how are YOU creating YOUR brand names (ahem, trademarks)? I have a lot of prospective clients reach out to me about possible trademarks, who seem to solely guide their trademark selection process by what domain names are available or not available!

Please, do not do this!

You are doing yourself, your company, and your customers a huge disservice if you write off a totally rad trademark just because you cannot obtain the pure domain name. 

To me, "VONGLE" sounds like someone was able to grab a pure domain name, and that's about it. There's no connotation, and someone is gonna have to work really hard to educate consumers about what the hell your Vongle is. (Your trademark attorney, however, will have an easier job getting the mark registered for you....)

Consumers are educated enough to realize at this point that a lot of "pure" domain names might not be available. It's no big deal. There are ways to work around this!

Do NOT be a vongle and don't create vongle-like marks for your products or services.

If you need help creating a totally rad brand name for your private label products, I can help you. And, the cool thing is, I approach the task from both the marketing AND the legal side. 

Garlic presses rust away. Brand names can last forever. Select a strong brand name that you are thrilled to share, and one that elicit smiles from your customers.

Do this at the outset. Do it when you selecting your products (or starting your business or service).

Don't put it off as a sideshow and do not underestimate the value that a strong trademark can bring to your business ~ whether it's a private label or service-based business.

Ready to get started? Good.

I do not want to be a Vongle! {Start here!}


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Amazon Marketplace: Top 3 Strategies For Brand Positioning

Like Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks… Would you do all it takes to own the top spot?

What you are about to learn is not just some abstract recipe for quick success, this is a paradigm shift that is going to hit your perception of the Amazon marketplace. After in-depth research and the study of the market factors and many more legal pros and cons, I decided to come up with a few tips that will help you successfully position your brand in the world’s largest online retail site.

Are you ready to learn about some simple brand positioning strategies and little secrets to help you create an untouchable space on the giant Amazon platform? Well let's get started!

 #1: Your Selling Point

What was the magic distinction that set Apple apart? They began selling their best qualities, easy of service delivery, beautiful packaging, and high-quality products.

Amazon, however, IS the major league, from ‘Earth’s Biggest Bookstore’ to ‘World’s Largest Online Retailer,' you may change your products, graphics, and even upgrade your logo. But, to create an ever-growing presence of your brand on this giant, like Apple, you MUST stick to your selling point.

Understand your target audience! And just as important, your target audience should understand your brand and business. This is what drives your advertisements, presence on social platforms, and helps you to gain clarity as to how to brand and market to your selling point.

Is your target audience a buttoned-up suit wearing attorney, or a music freak? Can you create an image of your ideal customer?

Knowing your customers will reciprocate customer loyalty and help you define your selling point.

 #2: Tell Your Story, Connect with your Customers

The amazing thing about good stories is how they drag us unwittingly to the last word. Before we know it, we're hooked.

People love success stories – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and many more.

But guess what? Their stories were not written once they became the best. Their stories were written while they were becoming the best.

Your brand story will be written (and will evolve), over time. And your brand must connect to your clients emotionally. Consumers buy products out of emotional attachments.

Some large companies actually offer employment for storytellers within their company.

So, what’s the story behind your brand and product? Tell it beautifully and passionately to the world.

No two stories are exactly the same, and a great brand and product story is near impossible to copy. So, properly and concretely positioning your brand and products will make it that much harder for third parties to copy your brand story.

#3: Trademark Registration and Amazon Brand Registry

In a vast market such as Amazon, infringements are bound to happen, and counterfeits ~ particularly ~ of your products will also surface in no time. Being proactive saves you from being shut out of the market by counterfeits or lots of legal battles, and you do not want to spend your money on negative events.

Being proactive would mean registering your brand name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Your trademark is any source-indicator for your brand, such as design logos, slogans, text or standard character marks, colors, or packing.

A few quick trademarks tips:

  •    Avoid generic or descriptive elements that describe your private label products.
  •    Your trademark should be unique. Being different and standing out amongst the ocean of competitors using really bad trademarks is a  good thing! At the very least, you should do your own cursory searching on the internet to see if there are any obvious trademark conflicts.

At some point, you can also consider registering your trademark internationally. In fact, you can file an application with the World Intellectual Property Organization via its Madrid System.

The Amazon Brand Registry and other Artificial Intelligence software arguably provide a "watchdog" system on Amazon over Trademarks that are recorded with them. Counterfeits or infringing brands can be spotted, and the entries will be deleted and sometimes, permanently barred from the marketplace. However, don't depend on Amazon to protect and enforce your trademarks for you. Be diligent and aggressive. This is how you build value in your trademark over the long term.

You can build a brand that wins the very hearts of your customers. Don't underestimate how important this is for the overall longevity of your business.

Secure the top spot in your niche by knowing and understanding your ideal customers and selling point, telling your brand and product story, and registering your brand name with the USPTO.

Together, we can win the battle against lame brand names, and infringers!

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Trademarks Made Easy with Suzi Hixon, the Private Label Lawyer - TME000



How do I select a strong trademark for my private label products?

How do I differentiate myself from the eCommerce competition?

How do I kick counterfeiters to the curb on Amazon?

These are just some of the big questions that leading trademark attorney, Suzi Hixon, also known as The Private Label Lawyer, digs into on the Trademarks Made Easy for Private Label & eCommerce Sellers Podcast.

In addition to trademark selection step-by-step guides, episodes discuss case studies of what to do and ~ sometimes even more importantly ~ what NOT to do, when selecting a brand name for a private label product. Suzi's niche is getting into the trademark selection trenches with you. While selecting a solid product is important when selling on Amazon and other eCommerce platforms, Suzi wants online sellers to not gloss over the critical brand name selection element.

Thinking about getting into private label selling? Want to select a trademark that is distinctive, viable, and legally enforceable? Want to mitigate the risks of receiving the dreaded cease & desist letter? Discover why hundreds of private label sellers turn to Suzi to help them select amazing brand names that last well beyond the life of tangible products. While garlic presses rust away in kitchen cabinets, a strong brand name can last forever.

Learn how to monetize trademarks and strengthen them over time. Suzi's guidance can help you generate more profits for your private label business, profits that can go well beyond selling fidget spinners!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the show to get a new episode of Trademarks Made Easy every Friday, and visit https://trademarksmadeeasy.com for show notes and more info.

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Amazon's Brand Registry 2.0 Program

 As most of you all know by now, Amazon rolled out its new Brand Registry “2.0” platform in May, promising to offer improved brand protection for those enrolled—and providing yet another reason to register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  

The new Amazon Brand Registry (Brand Registry 2.0) requires a federally registered trademark in order to participate.  According to Amazon, only brands that have registered trademarks in the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the European Union are eligible for enrollment in the new Brand Registry.  (Some applicants may want to consider filing in these international jurisdictions as trademark applications may move faster than at the USPTO. Contact me to discuss if the option is right for you.)

Also, please note that Amazon seems to have very recently changed its requirement that the registered mark must be a standard character mark; as of today, Amazon appears to be approving design or stylized registrations as long as there is a text portion that represents your brand.

With this said, Amazon could change this back to requiring a standard character mark at any time! It's a dynamic platform, and we are just doing our best at any given moment to keep up with changes.

Further, please note, even if your brand was enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry prior to the new rollout, it will not be grandfathered in to the 2.0 version.  All brands must enroll in the new program AND must meet the new eligibility requirements. 

Amazon's move marks a shift in the e-commerce industry toward enhancing brand security and consumer protection: with hijackers and counterfeiters at an all-time high, internet sellers are taking all steps necessary to protect their products and intellectual property.  As the undisputed leader in the industry, e-commerce giant Amazon has, we hope(!), raised the bar in providing security and peace-of-mind its sellers and consumers.            

Counterfeit Removal and Transparency Programs

One of the most beneficial features of the new Brand Registry is the expanded counterfeit removal program.  Brand Registry participants can now come alongside Amazon and flag potential counterfeiters. 

This features will allow Amazon to swiftly take down listings, and in some cases accounts, that are violating intellectual property rights.  The use of a simple “Report a Violation” tab within the program creates an easy path to brand protection.

Amazon also introduced the “Transparency” program, which places codes on products, allowing consumers to find out more information about their purchased products by scanning the codes.  This program aims to cut down on counterfeit goods, as participating manufacturers can place details about the origins and authenticity of their goods in the Transparency app, among other information.

Listing Control and Enhanced Content

Registering your trademark with the USPTO and with Brand Registry allows Amazon to quickly and efficiently remove hijackers from your listing.  It also allows you as the seller to participate in Brand Registry and take full advantage of all of the advancements Amazon is making, now and in the future. 

These new enhancements will prevent counterfeit products from entering the marketplace (which is good for sellers and consumers!) and gives the seller more complete control over their brands.  Amazon’s previous retention of control over the merchandise sold on its platform has caused many third-party sellers to distrust the e-commerce platform and some to even opt out of placing their products on the site.

Sellers can also now add more details to their listings, such as an “About” section and links to an Amazon “store” for their brand, creating brand awareness and loyalty. Now when a seller searches for a product that is enrolled in Brand Registry, only one listing will show, even if there are several other sellers with the same product.  This gives the authentic manufacturer control over the search and the listing. 

Wrappin' It Up

Unfortunately for newer companies, brands with pending trademark applications are not eligible for Brand Registry 2.0.  The new program requires proof of a registration with the USPTO (through providing Amazon with a Registration Serial Number); and because applying for a trademark takes months (and sometimes years), it is in the brand owner’s best interest to begin the process sooner rather than later. 

While it does make some newer brands ineligible for participation, the registration requirement is essential to offering sellers brand protection and consumers an authentic and positive shopping experience. 

Note, the Registration must be on the Principal Register ~ and not the Supplemental Register. Do not fall into this trap! Weak descriptive marks end up on the Supplemental Register.

Need to create a strong trademark ~ one that is eligible for the Principal Register and worthy of aggressive enforcement? Don't get stuck with a bad brand name. Check out The Trademark Trailblazer: The Brand Name Creation Blueprint


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US Customs ~ Another Weapon for Your Brand-Protection Arsenal

For many experienced e-commerce brand owners, the question is when, not if, they will be the victims of a counterfeit seller. 

Manufacturers overseas are producing knock-offs of American goods at a rapidly increasing rate.  In 2007, the value of counterfeit imports worldwide was $176 billion; in 2013, that number had risen to $461 billion. 

The United States is hit the hardest by these intellectual property rights infringers, as 20% of the total seizures are counterfeit American products.  This alarming trend highlights the importance of not only registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but also of employing every tool available to protect your rights.

One of the most overlooked strategies against e-commerce counterfeiters is Customs Recordation through the United States Customs and Border Protection agency. The CBP is a federal agency whose primary function is securing the integrity of the country’s borders. 

This authority also includes protecting intellectual property rights in the United States against infringement from abroad.  The CBP is authorized by law to intercept counterfeit or infringing goods, seizing 31,560 imports and arresting 451 individuals in 2016 alone.

When you record your trademark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, all relevant information (including images of your mark) is input into the CBP database.  As goods are imported through each of the United States’ 317 ports of entry, CBP officers compare the imports to those registered in the database to determine if any have infringing marks on them. 

CBP can then seize and detain any goods that violate intellectual property rights in the United States. 

The CBP encourages registered mark holders to partner with them to help protect your rights.  They have several resources, including information on drafting a Product ID guide to assist officers in understanding and better protecting your mark.  The CBP also invites anyone with information on suspect imports and importers to report them via the e-allegations program.

Any trademark registered on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Principal Register (currently, marks on the Supplemental Register are not eligible) qualifies for customs recordation; and the recordation fee is only $190 per International Class of goods. {This post discusses the differences between the Principal and Supplemental Register.}

Before beginning your application, you will need your USPTO Registration number and digital images of your mark.  {Yet another reason it's super important to register your trademark!} 

The recordation application also offers options for requesting protection against “gray market” articles (i.e., goods sold legally, but outside of normal commerce channels and not as the original manufacturer intended) on the basis of material and physical differences. 

Keep in mind that after recording, you will need to keep Customs and Border Protection updated with any changes in your mark or goods (e.g., change in ownership, the addition of new products, etc.), and you must renew your recordation within three months of the expiration of your 20-year USPTO trademark registration.   

This simple tool can offer your brand a world of protection.  Customs Recordation allows the U.S. government to stop counterfeits at the border, and often to prosecute those responsible. 

The benefits far outweigh the nominal cost and trouble, making recordation with Customs and Border Protection a no-brainer for even the most novice trademark owner. 

Please feel free to contact us if you would like to pursue recordation of your registered trademark with US Customs!  


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Just 4 Quick Steps

Every day I see entrepreneurs make crucial mistakes that cost them money and put their business at risk. I’ll show you how to protect yourself in this quick guide.