Imagine a scenario where you’ve sourced your private label rights (PLR) products from China, shipped them to the U.S. or Canada, and listed them on Amazon. You’re making decent revenues on your items and raking in the profits.
One morning, you wake up and find a host of complaints about your PLR products. Investigating further, you realize that the complaints are being generated not against your products per se, but against closely related, knock-off items that look almost like yours, complete with descriptions and photos that were generated by you.
What’s happened is that an unknown seller has hijacked your product photos and descriptions and is offering similar products for lower prices.
To make matters even worse, the knock-off items are priced lower than your own, so your Buy Box has disappeared.
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Amazon: A land of pirates
Amazon sellers are increasingly having their product listings hijacked or copied by unscrupulous counterfeiters. Many of these sellers complain to Amazon about the issue, but there is little that Amazon will do to fix it.
Why doesn’t Amazon care about pirated product listings? There are two reasons.
- Once a product listing is uploaded to Amazon, Amazon considers it to be its own property. That includes the product photo, description, etc. As a result, anyone is welcome to take the product components and use them for their benefit.
- Amazon promotes the lowest priced item that is getting the most customer attention. More customer attention means more sales, which translates to higher commissions for Amazon. This is why counterfeiters often win the Buy Box.
However, there is one thing that Amazon cares about: counterfeit goods. If you can grab Amazon’s attention by proving that your pirate is selling counterfeit products, that pirate’s product listings will be removed.
How to alert Amazon about counterfeit products:
- Have your friend purchase the counterfeit good through Amazon.
- Once the product arrives, have your friend complain on Amazon (by filing an A to Z complaint) that it’s fake, not genuine, or counterfeit.
- Amazon will usually remove the fake product listings in a few days.
This approach usually works well, but it’s also time-consuming and costly. How can you prevent your products from being copied in the future? Here are some approaches that will help you reduce the risk of product listing hijacking.
1. Register your products with Amazon’s Brand Registry.
Amazon sellers who are manufacturers of their own products can register those products with Amazon. To do this, you’ll need to take pictures of your branded products and packaging and submit those pictures to Amazon. You’ll also need to provide your website URL.
2. Include your brand with your product photos and descriptors.
When taking photos, be sure to include your product’s brand in your photos. Also, take pictures of your product’s packaging, complete with the brand name, and include that photo in your listing too. In short, differentiate yourself as much as possible from the counterfeiters, many of whom push generic products and packaging.
When writing product descriptions, include your brand name as part of the descriptor and don’t shy away from noting how your product is unique/different from that of the competition. If you do this diligently with your product descriptions, there’s a lesser likelihood that they will be swiped alongside your photos.
3. Include your website URL in your product photos.
Amazon may remove your product listings if you include your website URL on them- or it may not. In any case, adding your website URL into your product photos is worth a shot because doing so again limits how your information will be displayed by others. Just make sure that your website link isn’t actually hyperlinked and directing buyers away from Amazon itself, as Amazon is bound to notice that tactic and shut you down.
4. Create unique packages or bundles of products.
It’s fairly easy for a pirate to steal your product pictures and descriptions if your products are generic and can be easily copied by another manufacturer out in China. It’s far more difficult to pirate your products if they’re uniquely packaged or bundled with secondary products, or even come as part of a product bundle.
Therefore, consider how you might combine your products into families and sell them as bundles. If you do end up selling bundles, you may even want to create different brand names for each bundle family.
5. Consider trademarking your product.
If your product is one-of-a-kind or truly unique, you should consider trademarking its brand label and even getting a provisional patent on it. Then, when you are listing your product on Amazon, state that your product is protected by the registered brand label. Point out in the description that the product is made/manufactured by X company.
6. Send the pirate(s) a cease and desist letter.
You can sometimes get people to remove their counterfeit product listings by sending them a cease and desist letter. In such a case, you want to create a professional letter that looks like something your lawyer generated. In that letter, note which listings are carrying the counterfeit goods, then politely ask that those listings be removed. In many cases, this tactic actually does work.
The Bottom Line
While pirates do exist in the land of Amazon, there are methods you can use to reduce the risk of having your products and product listings stolen by them. This is also the biggest reason why branding exists in the first place, and why manufacturers fight to protect their brands.