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The Right {or Wrong} Trademark Can Make {or Break} Your eCommerce Brand

Whether we realize it or not, we all encounter trademarks daily. Actually, scratch that..more like hourly.

Trademarks are a simple and concise method of communicating information about a brand. The information communicated centers around the desirable qualities and characteristics of the brand.

Your trademark "sings" the song of your brand. {You've probably already heard me say that a time or two!}

Some of the highest performing brands today don’t just sell products - they sell a lifestyle. A key example of this is the health and wellness industry. A consumer is not just buying a pair of yoga pants - he or she is buying a healthy lifestyle. Businesses within this industry develop strong branding and trademarks that clearly, concisely, and effectively communicate to buyers that they are purchasing a lifestyle of physical wellbeing. {Hello, prAna, Lululemon, and my favorite, my client Eagle Rock WERKSHOP!}

Over time, trademarks come to encompass far more than their original marketing messages. Company reputation becomes a key factor as more and more consumers gain experience with a product bearing a trademark. This can have a profound effect on the value of a trademark - for good or bad {and that's up to you, as the brand owner!}

Branding strategies should be designed to support and promote a retailer’s desired perception of a product. When a retailer fails to develop trademarks that align with this goal, the result can be especially detrimental.

Poor trademark creation practices are likely to completely impede a retailer’s ability to attract a strong customer base, and more specifically, the customer base they desire. A business lacking a regular stream of loyal customers will struggle to survive in any market - let alone the current market, which is highly competitive, particularly in the online retail world.

The Qualities of Good (and Bad) Trademarks

To help marketing teams make good branding decisions, a well-developed trademark is:

  •    Simple
  •    Distinctive {unique}
  •    Meaningful
  •    Well-associated with a retailer’s product class {but NOT descriptive of said product class}
  •    Capable of eliciting a robust mental image
  •    Designed to evoke an emotional reaction {hopefully, a smile!}

Based on these stated qualities of a good trademark, we can infer the qualities of a bad trademark. A private label with a poor trademark selection strategy is likely to have a trademark that is:

  •    Overly-complicated {e.g., challenging to share verbally}
  •    Difficult to distinguish from other retailers’ branding {might as well be on the lookout for a cease and desist letter}
  •    Lacking in meaning or significance to consumers {watch out for those trendy marks full of consonants}
  •    Difficult to search for using voice on Alexa and other voice searching platforms {this is gonna be a biggie in the future}
  •    Unable to elicit strong mental images {a la borrrring}
  •    Incapable of creating an emotional response

The Importance of Trademarks for Private Label Businesses

In the age of Amazon, it is imperative that private label businesses develop branding strategies that sell, and create trademarks that best represent and convey those strategies.

A strong trademark puts a private label business on a stable path toward the creation of a high-performing brand, and one that will grow in value over time.

This is also important for Amazon sellers. So listen up!

These retailers must be mindful of how they can build a strong brand name that will persist over time without having to rely on the existence of an external platform like Amazon. {Amazon isn't here to help you police and enforce your brand. Don't depend on Amazon. Diversify.}

The Marketing Value of Trademarks

A compelling trademark is the critical starting point for private label businesses looking for avenues of driving sales and maximizing their market share.

An effective trademark establishes a business in the mind of the target consumer.

This establishment then serves to stimulate critical consumer behaviors:

  1. purchases of the business' products,
  2. communication about the brand’s value with others, and
  3. return customers.

In the modern age of social media, consumer communication about a brand can be invaluable. Developing a strong brand name that consumers can easily communicate about online and in-person creates a fertile environment for positive consumer perception. This allows potential consumers to have a deeper initial experience with a brand, which will ideally drive new sales to the retailer, as well as bring back repeat customers.

The Legal Ramifications of Trademarks

From a legal perspective, a trademark is a powerful protective force for a retailer. Establishing a legal trademark protects a retailer from other parties infringing on the brand. This is known as trademark infringement, which is defined under US law as, “the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.”

The law allows a trademark owner to file a lawsuit if the owner believes another party is infringing on the trademark. In cases where the court finds that trademark infringement has occurred, the trademark owner may be entitled to:

  •    A court order demanding that the infringing party stop using the trademark
  •    A court order that requires the infringing party must destroy or forfeit any infringing articles
  •    A court order requiring the infringing party to pay the attorneys’ fees of  the trademark owner
  •    Financial compensation for any profits the infringing party made as a result of the infringement 
  •    Financial compensation for any damages
  •    Financial reimbursement for the costs of filing the lawsuit

These laws are designed to protect businesses and their brands, as well as consumers! Businesses who are striving for market success should be aware of these protections and how they can utilize them to maintain the quality of their branding strategies and increase the value in their trademarks over time ~ super important!

Apres' Ski

The modern eCommerce age has provided private label sellers with an extensive platform for conducting business.

A well-developed trademark is an essential element for a business to distinguish itself from the crowd, establish itself within the minds of consumers, and grow itself into a reputable ~ and profitable ~ industry leader.

Establishing a strong trademark ~ from both the legal and the marketing perspective ~ and a well-planned branding strategy lays a solid foundation for success within the online retail sector.

Do you need help with trademark creation?

I understand that finding the nexus of a great trademark ~ from both the legal perspective and the marketing perspective ~  can seem elusive. But guess what? I can help you.

Join us over at Trademark Trailblazers to learn more and for lots of free resources rolling out on trademark creation and brand value building!



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I'm Talking to you, Moon unit! Why Your Brand Name Could be MORE Important than Your Kid’s Name!

Creating a GREAT Brand Name for your product or service is MORE Important Than Naming Your Kid!

Indeed, naming your children is important! (Perhaps that's why people with names like Rocket Flare, Binge McDingleton, and Felonious Dorcus are legally changing their names at a record rate with as little as “$50 and a few clicks” in the UK!)

Even Americans are jumping on board to get the name they want and getting rid of the name they were given.  

Listen, if you ended up with a name like Moon Unit or Cocaine Spider, you can at least right your parent's wrong by picking out a fantastic brand name for your product or service!

Of course, the pain of change is just one of several reasons you’ll want to select a strong trademark for your product or services at the outset. If you've already gone down the road of trademark creation, and encountered some problem areas (e.g., a cease and desist letter or a merely descriptive refusal with the USPTO), take what you've learned from that experience, and focus on creating a strong, viable trademark that will benefit your business for the long term going forward.

What it boils down to is the fact that consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by trademarks. There is no way around this. If you end up spending weeks on selecting your products, you'll need to spend weeks on creating your trademark. Please do not gloss over the oh-so important trademark creation process. 

Trademark selection is just as important as product selection, especially if you intend to stick around for a while.

{Fly-by-night fidget spinner factory or fad-of-the-month club? If you're just looking to make a quick buck, you can stop reading now.}

 Your brand is your reputation. Your trademark sings your reputation.

Are you ready for some tough love? Here are three reasons why your brand name is more important than your kid’s name:

#1: Your Trademark Can Increase in Value

Unlike your children, who might decide to become “Magic Powers” or “Steve Smith” once they are adults, it’s essential to your business that your trademark withstands the test of time. Yes...well beyond the lives of Magic Powers or Steve Smith.

Bunn, Coca Cola, Stella Artois ~ these are beautiful brand names that have increased in value over time, and long outlived their owners' founders. You can do this, too, but probably not with a name like "Super Smashy Garlic Press." {Actually, that one's not too bad...} 

If you’re savvy, your trademark will be worked into every aspect of your product and brand. Additionally, as long as you keep using it, and as long as you maintain the registration properly, you can expect that trademark to long outlive the life of any of your tangible products.

A good trademark can be passed down through generations, as it is an asset.

Think “Kellogg's” — at one point, that was just someone’s last name! Oh my. Cereal and packaging have evolved. The first generation those products were marketing to now likely have youngsters or grandchildren of their own.

But guess what?

That brand name has grown in value over time.

And you, too, should create a brand name that has the potential to grow in equity over time. Do you really think that "Super Smashy Garlic Press" for garlic presses will be a trademark that grows in value? Mmm, probably not.

You are reading this information because you want to learn, and you want to learn how to make more money for your business. Your trademark can grow in value, and it's an asset that can be sold or licensed.

Think outside the box when it comes to monetizing your trademark. And just stick around with me for a while, you'll ultimately learn how.

If you suddenly realize that your trademark isn’t going to cut it for the long haul, for whatever reason, you will most likely have to go through the whole process of creating a new brand name and filing a new trademark application. Not the end of the world, and you might end up with an even better trademark. 

{Make sure you listen to Episode 11 of my Podcast Trademarks Made Easy if you think you might have to go through a name change. I keep it real!}

However, having to go through a name change will not be an overnight task. Remember, even if there are no hangups in the trademark application process with the USPTO, you should expect it to take about six to eight months to obtain a new trademark.  

Don't be afraid of selecting a new trademark if you must. Be afraid ~ much more afraid ~ of the Sunk Cost Fallacy:

“The sunk cost effect is the general tendency for people to continue an endeavor, or continue consuming or pursuing an option, if they’ve invested time or money or some resource in it,” says Christopher Olivola, an assistant professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “That effect becomes a fallacy if it’s pushing you to do things that are making you unhappy or worse off.”

Simply put, decisions can be tainted by the accumulation of monetary and emotional investments, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

All decisions face uncertainty about the future. And when you lose something permanently, it hurts. The drive to mitigate this negative emotion leads to strange behaviors. For example, continuing to market under a brand name that you know you cannot really build value in because the trademark is actually descriptive, and weak.

Please do not become a victim of the Sunk Cost Fallacy. If you need a new trademark, take this challenge as an opportunity to engage and communicate with your customers. Make sure they know your brand name is evolving and only getting better, and that you'll still have the same amazing quality products. Perhaps you could even involve people in a naming contest or poll to increase engagement.

Hopefully, your business and your brand-spankin' new trademark will both be around much longer than they have been already. And you will likely have far more customers in the future than you have had in the past. If you end up having to change that brand name, do it sooner rather than later.  

#2: Trademarks are Valuable (Ahem, $$$$)

Okay, whether or not your business is more valuable than your child remains open for debate. However, your trademark itself, that little nugget that sings your brand, is more valuable than your kid’s name. (Unless, of course, your kid’s name is Blue Ivey Carter.)

A primary reason that choosing a strong trademark when starting your business is so important is that your brand name itself holds value.

In fact, the right trademark matched with products or services that fit well into a market can make a fortune for your business.

And remember what I said earlier...don't forget about possible monetization of your trademark!

The leading valuable brands — not the company value, but just the value of the brand — are worth billions of dollars. To give some examples: Amazon is valued at $150.8 billion, Apple at $146.3 billion, Google at $120.9 billion, Samsung at $92.3 billion, and Facebook at $89.7 billion. Those numbers make my head spin.

Understanding the value of your trademark has a lot to do with your interactions with consumers and creating what is considered “goodwill.” The goodwill generated by your company appreciates with time as the positive reputation of your business grows, also making your trademark more valuable along the way.

Why is that? Consumers are more willing to pay a premium for a product (like a wetsuit by the company Quiksilver) than they are for the exact same product (like a wetsuit without the Quiksilver trademark) because they trust the brand Quicksilver. Plus their logo is really cute.

By not choosing the right trademark from the start, you’re setting yourself up to lose a lot of value down the line, either through unrealized growth or from cutting losses and starting over with your brand.

#3: Trademarks Tell Consumers WhassUp

Your trademark, your brand name, communicates what your company brand is all about to consumers. 

It tells the consumers if you’re a wild, adrenaline-rush of a brand that thinks doing five backflips on a pogo stick off a cliff and landing it is worthwhile (hello, Red Bull).

Or, it can communicate if you’re a sophisticated brand for those moments in life where elegance, power, luxury, and history are essential (think Tiffany & Co). These are both so different, but so so great in their own unique way!

What is communicated, when done right, can go beyond your initial product. John Deere is basically a tractor company, but they also have branded themselves as a farmers’ lifestyle company. The brand represents more than tractors; it represents a dream of what America was, is, and can be. Because of that, people wear John Deere hats, shirts, and buy other products with the iconic yellow and green John Deere logos on them to communicate their alliance with these brand traits. {Are you not imagining a waving American flag, in front of a wheat field and a green tractor rolling by, with God Bless The USA in the background?}

Grab my Trademark Quickstart Bundle for a fun exercise!

Choosing the right trademark can give you the ability to grow beyond your original product and represent more than just a really pretty piece of jewelry.

Final Thoughts: Top 3 Reasons Your Brand Name is More Important than Your Kid’s Name

The bottom line is that you have to take the time to get your trademark right. And it's better to get it right the first time if you can. If you messed up, it's okay. I can help you. Avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy and stop digging yourself deeper. Remember, it's more expensive to have to be reactive than proactive.

The value of your trademark and its ability to communicate your brand in the market is essential for you to grow your brand presence and maximize your profits. Additionally, the costs of either struggling forward with a lousy trademark or switching your trademark, later on, can hurt you in the long-term.

If you think you've glossed over this all-too-often overlooked step, go back to the drawing board sooner rather than later. You don't want to put this off.

Ready to create your own trademark for your business or service? Check out the Trademark Trailblazer: The Brand Name Creation Blueprint

Rather us do it for you? Apply to work with us today!

You got this, Abcde, but we can help! 



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Brain Tattoos & Our Emotional Attachment to Brands

According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, brand attachment is a type of emotional bond that binds the consumer to particular brands.

The authors of the study found that the public exhibits devotion to certain trademarks (or brand names) when they perform the following emotional actions:

  •    Go out of their way to own a brand
  •    Make an effort to protect a specific brand
  •    Tell others they feel passionate about or connected to the brand

In listing its 25 Most Popular Brand Stories of 2018, Adweek found that “in 2018 brands were on a mission to connect with people more than ever.”

Emotional branding allows you to create relationships in which your customers turn into your cheerleaders.

This means that you need to establish invisible lines between your brand and the consumer’s mind and heart.

You do this with your trademark!

So, how can you create a trademark that forges an emotional bond?

In addition to assisting you with a trademark clearance search and trademark filing ~ even before you get to those stages ~ we can help you create your trademark with our Trademark Trailblazer: The Brand Name Creation Blueprint

The purpose of the blueprint is to formulate a vision for your brand. It is a process of brainstorming brand names to carefully determine which ones strike an emotional chord ~ those strings which tether your intended customers to your brand ~ along with removing brand names that we know will not be good from a marketing perspective, as well as a legal perspective.

Marketing guru, Seth Godin, defines BRAND in his book, “This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See” as follows:

A brand is shorthand for the customer’s expectations. What promise do they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you, or meet with you or hire you?

A trademark, therefore, must convey a strong message ~ right away.

The message must be positive and, if anything, memorable and smile-inducing! Your brand is the song; your trademark is the singer. It delivers the message. And that message better be good.

Because people have emotional reactions to specific brands, it is essential for people to like what they see as soon as they see it. And it is equally crucial that potential customers understand what you are promising, so that they know what to expect.

Let's talk about brand names that give you the “feels.”

Remember, a trademark is a crucial element that provides consistency to the visibility of your brand. Always lead with your trademark. Your trademark sings your brand! {Think about just how impressionable a song can be. Have you heard a song that you "just can't get out of your head"? We lovingly call these addictive tunes "earworms." You want to create the same impression with that trademark!}

That's why selecting a strong, distinctive brand name is so dang important! 

A trademark is the impression that stays with the consumer, and, therefore, it must pack a unique punch. It is crucial that the brand name ~ and perhaps also the accompanying design logo ~ be protected by becoming registered with the USPTO, of course.

It's imperative that you legally set up a brand and trademark for legacy.

While tangible products rust away, your trademark will last forever.

Finding the nexus of creating a great trademark from both the legal and the marketing perspectives can be challenging, to say the least. Instead of having it done by two separate entities (ie, a naming agency AND a law firm), if you haven't already selected your trademark, our Two-Week Trademark program is a perfect fit for your needs!

Selecting a strong brand name and performing a trademark clearance search (ensuring the viability of the trademark from a legal perspective), will ensure that an emotional connection with your customer endures well beyond the life of your tangible products!

Remember, we are here to help!

Grab the Trademark Quickstart for my Free Brand Name Creation Workbook!

Want us to do the work for you? Apply here!



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3 Tips Competitors Use For Their Online Brand Protection Strategy

With over 5 million sellers...

The fierce competition between online retailers on Amazon can be really stifling and overwhelming. This is not to mention the vicious counterfeiting practices by copycats and other pirates from the underworld who want to rip off the goodwill and reputation of your business name.

Is it even possible to distinguish yourself from the thousands of voices of Amazon sellers in the same category or to even protect your products and sales from being slavishly ripped off by online scammers?

The short and simple answer is yes!

Did you know that there are 310 million estimated active customers on Amazon. This figure represents a large market that could potentially bring huge profits to a recognized seller who knows his target audience within the pool and how to attract them to his products.

Here are your free tips for pulling it off...

To create a genuine, long-lasting brand, one of the first steps is to perform extensive and intensive research on the Amazon marketplace.

What you should be researching?

  • Target audience: Information on purchasing habits of people who are  readily interested in your category of product listings, potential customers and new leads on Amazon, social media pages and email listings.
  • Preferred features: What do customers prefer about your product listings. Research shows that 90% of Amazon consumers would not purchase items with less than a three star rating. There would also be shipping preferences, fulfillment preferences, etc.
  • Competitors: Study the branding, colors, fonts, logos, selling points, special features, and offers of existing brands and top sellers.  The information you glean from competitor research will help you know what is, perhaps, too trendy.  Chart a path on how you can be distinct from your competitors.
  • Your Brand: Here, you pen down the abstracts of what you want to achieve. Consider the product branding you want to create.  What colors, logo, fonts, and features on Amazon are best adaptable to your products?

Create a Brand Strategy!

Branding on Amazon can be an easy job if you have concrete plans. Having completed your research, you can begin to chart your course to create a classic brand. There is literally no big brand today without a brand strategy (think Coke's “One Brand”).

Your brand strategy should be fully fleshed out and thorough, which will form the groundwork for your brand identity. Elements you should include in your product branding strategy:

  •    Brand voice
  •    Brand style
  •    Colors
  •    Logo
  •    Tagline
  •    Fonts/Typography
  •    Brand messaging architecture
  •    Product listing style guide (your method of naming and listing new products)
  •    Picture quality
  •    Special offers on products
  •    Shipping policies (especially if you are not an FBA subscriber)
  •    TOS on return and replacement of products

And of course, your trademark.

Keep in mind that your trademark is just one element of your overall brand strategy!

The end product of your strategy should be a Creative Brief. Then you are set to engage the visual elements to bring alive the brand you have created. Visual elements will include the words you use in describing your products, taglines and so on.

Create and Implement a Proactive Brand Protection Plan!

Four days before it launched the iPhone, Apple began its applications to patent its designs. This is the reason they were awarded up to $539 million in damages for infringement by Samsung.

Lesson? You do not wait for your products to be counterfeited or ripped off before you protect your brand. Be proactive when comes to the protection of your intellectual property.

I promise, while it might seem expensive now, being proactive is much less expensive than being reactive. Plus, you'll sleep better at night!

You might not have anything eligible for patent protection, but you certainly have a brand name you'll want to protect via trademark registration, and beautiful one of a kind products you'll want to protect via copyright registration..

Bonus Tip:  Pay attention to SEO and Reviews on your Product Listings!

FeedbackExpress reports that there are 1,761,784 sellers have Amazon product listings as of 2017, and 1,029,528 have joined in 2018. A huge number. How do you get visibility above other sellers to get the attention of an estimated 1. 79 billion users (Statista, 2018) who use online search engines to find products (Adeptmind reports 46.7% of U.S. searches on Amazon and 34.6% on Google)? The answer is simple – Search Engine Optimization. Engaging SEO on your product listings, specifications, social media pages, and blogs will significantly increase your brand publicity.

FeedbackExpress also reports that 9,644,400 seller feedback reviews are left monthly on all Amazon marketplaces and as pointed out earlier, 90% of customers would not purchase a product with less than 3-star ratings. Hence, your customer reviews are essential to generating new leads for your products and establishing a top class brand.

Product branding on Amazon requires focus, research, strategy and overall protection.

However, with the right guide, you can get it right. Grow and protect your brand today!

Apply to work with Suzi!

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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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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.