1. Trademark your brand name
To enforce your company’s brand on Amazon, you will need to have a registered trademark at the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). Overall, this should be a fairly simple and straightforward process so long as we initially perform a trademark search to determine whether the desired trademark will be rejected due to a previously filed or registered trademark at the USPTO.
2. Protect proprietary products with a design patent:
While utility patents typically provide greater protection over a product, many Amazon sellers that sell redesigned and well-known products are likely better suited for a design patent. Roughly 70% of design patent applications are allowed without any rejection, and even if a rejection does issue, the basis for rejection is typically minor and easy to overcome. The average cost to secure a design patent, from beginning to end, should range from $2,250- $3,000, with about $1,500 being paid up front and the rest being paid when the prosecution process begins in about one year after filing
3. Consider Expedited Examination of the design patent application (i.e., the USPTO’s Rocket Docket program).
Expedited examination can result in the USPTO issuing a first action (e.g., Office Action, Notice of Allowance) in a design application within about six months after filing as opposed to the typical one-plus year. The expedited examination process may be worthwhile if your company has sufficient cause to know that your product(s) will be ripped off by competitors or even your own manufacturer depending on where the manufacturing facility is located. However, this process requires a decent amount of professional work and can cost about $1,000-1,500 more depending on the technology, not including the additional USPTO fees.
4. Consider filing a utility patent application (in addition to or instead of a design patent application).
For many Amazon sellers that are just re-purposing and redesigning well-known and existing products, a design patent application is likely ideal. However, this does not mean that a utility patent application is off the table and should not be considered. If legitimate engineering was done in creating the product or otherwise you think the product has legitimate value, then a utility patent application to protect the product’s functionality and structure should at least be explored. Unlike a design patent, the utility patent can protect the device’s general functionality and, hopefully, cause a much bigger headache for competitors when deciding whether to copy your product. Plus, simple mechanical devices will typically be the lowest cost of any patent applications, so at least inquiring about the cost may be worthwhile.
5. Enforce Intellectual Property (“IP”) against competitors using Amazon’s various mechanisms.
General complaints of IP infringement can be reported to Amazon and, if that doesn’t work, the IP holder can move forward with Amazon’s Neutral Patent Evaluation Program if we believe, after an independent review, that another party is infringing on your patent. While Amazon charges each party $4,000 to move forward with this program, Amazon refunds the winner of the allegedly neutral proceeding.
6. Proceedings and strategies are also available outside of Amazon, such as Cease and Desist Letters and formal legal complaints.
Depending on the situation, we can go straight to sending a cease and desist letter to the alleged infringer of your IP or filing a formal complaint in court. Of course, these methods are more costly and, depending on the seller’s business and situation, it may be better to engage with Amazon first to keep costs down.