Trademark owners often do not understand how to utilize or protect their rights under the trademark law. This article elaborates on the trademark owners can protect their rights, and maximize their business profits with their trademarks.
What is Trademark Law?
A trademark is defined as “a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product.” Trademark law is addressed under federal law and under Section 32(1) of the Lanham Act.
Because customers rely on the trademark to recognize the products, confusion of trademarks can result in potential loss of sales. When a trademark holder is damaged by, or even just likely to be damaged by, a trademark infringement, the party who infringes may be held responsible. In other words, no actual damage is necessary to initiate a trademark infringement lawsuit, as long as the trademark owner can demonstrate that there is a likelihood of damages. Therefore, a trademark infringement lawsuit can arise when there is a mark or logo that is similar enough to cause a “likelihood of confusion” to customers who identify the business by its trademark.
Amazon Trademark Infringement
In AYSE Sen v. Amazon.com, Inc., an Amazon third-party reseller sued Amazon for trademark infringement because it alleged that Amazon was using its trademark in Amazon’s online pay-per-click ad campaigns. Amazon did not obtain permission from the reseller to use the trademark in promotions on various search engines. Additionally, the seller argued that Amazon used the seller’s mark in promoting online traffic on Amazon’s website. The case was settled by Amazon without going to court.
In the settlement, Amazon agreed to reinstate the selling privilege to the seller and it was assumed that the seller’s account was suspended at a certain time. The suspension of the account placed a hold on the account that led the revenue and profit to become zero for the seller. For a seller on Amazon, the loss of sales could be detrimental when the suspension period is long. Although it was not clear if Amazon did infringe the seller’s trademark, Amazon agreed in the settlement that even if the seller violated Amazon’s policies that would normally result in suspension, Amazon would notify the seller and allow 30 days for the seller to correct the situation.
From this particular case, it was found that when Amazon might have used a trademark improperly, a trademark owner can end up with a settlement that protects the future of its account from being suspended. Since a suspension leads to loss of profits, a settlement with a guarantee to secure the selling account is very compelling to most sellers using Amazon.
However, this particular case does not encourage sellers to sue Amazon in order to avoid a future suspension. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of understanding trademark law to protect a seller’s interest to maximize business profits.
Reporting Trademarks on Amazon
When a trademark owner feels that his or her trademark rights are being infringed, he or she can fill out an official complaint with Amazon or file a lawsuit against the alleged violator. Either way, Amazon is able to suspend or ban the alleged violator’s account during the period of investigation.
It is important that a complaint filer understands that it is a serious accusation to claim that another seller or Amazon is infringing a trademark. In the circumstances where a seller is accused that he or she infringed another seller’s trademark, the seller should either demonstrate that he or she is authorized to use the trademark or remove the infringing products to avoid suspension, which may require account reinstatement. Documentation would be needed to prove that the seller is an authorized seller of the trademarked products. Failure to establish the authority to sell the trademarked products may result in a permanent suspension of the Amazon account.
Protecting Trademark Rights
It is critical for a trademark owner to understand the rights that he or she may have because intellectual property rights offer protection against another person taking advantage of the trademark owner’s mark. In the case that a trademark owner feels that his or her rights have been infringed, our legal team can assist trademark owners in trademark infringement cases. Having an experienced and strong team of attorneys is beneficial to a trademark owner because of the professional legal advice that can be provided to proceed with the issue.
Wang IP Law Group, P.C. is a Los Angeles based full service legal firm that specializes in intellectual property law (patent, trademark, copyright, and licensing agreement), business and commercial litigation, and a wide range of other legal matters including immigration, real estate, and landlord/tenant cases. Our multilingual attorneys represent clients from all over California and internationally from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel.
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