Trademark Salad: Unintended Consequences of the Amazon Brand Registry
Have you ever bought something on Amazon with a brand name that seemed unpronounceable? Perhaps the name’s language of origin was difficult to trace – almost like a string of random letters. That seems crazy, right?
Well, this may in fact be the case for some brands on Amazon.
Why do something that appears to go against common trademark logic? Why would brands want to be known by a string of unpronounceable letters?
It comes down to the Amazon Brand Registry.
The Amazon Brand Registry Context and the USPTO’s Registry of Trademarks
The Amazon Brand Registry was created as an answer to pervasive brand counterfeit on the Amazon ecommerce platform. However, the registry does more than merely reinforce the USPTO’s registry of trademarks. It offers perks and benefits that help sellers’ wares gain more visibility in a space that is flooded with options.
Because of these extra perks, some problems have arisen from the Amazon Brand Registry. Namely, nonsensical names. Part of the motivation may be that brands are simply looking for anything distinct to qualify for the USPTO and the Amazon Brand Registry.
LACDO, MOSISO, YTONET, ARVOK…
As we have discussed in past articles, the number of desirable marks left has reduced over the years – since trademark registration, once accepted, lasts indefinitely, as long as the mark is in use. So a great swath of trademark dead space exists for certain brand names in certain spaces.
Additionally, trademark trolls are generating a large percentage of these letter-salad names. Much like scalpers hoard concert tickets and sell them for a higher price at the door, trademark trolls have gotten busy registering any viable trademark under the sun. They are looking to profit from businesses who want entry to the Amazon club. In short, those businesses will pay trolls for marks that are already approved.
Amazon has been trying to police these shell brands, as trademarks for a false business are fraudulent.
How Does This Affect Commerce?
One effect that this Lexology article highlights: Chinese sellers are getting kicked off the platform more often than others. The exact reasons are unclear. Nevertheless, public officials in China are encouraging sellers to move their businesses elsewhere online.
These businesses may not appreciate being the guinea pigs for new selling platforms. Some may not survive removal from Amazon.
However, this could lead to at least one positive outcome for online consumers: Amazon might finally have to contend with legitimate competitors. This shows us one of the many ways that the thread of intellectual property weaves its way through practical commerce.