I’ve broken the process down into nine straight-forward, simple steps, compiled from expert Amazon sellers, legal resources, and private label experts.
When you start gaining success on Amazon, you attract two kinds of people: people who want to learn from you, and people who want to take from you. I’m going to show you how to protect yourself and your business from the latter.
On Amazon, it’s easy to check for other sellers that might be piggy-backing off your listing. Visit your product on amazon.com and take a look at the right-hand side of the page. If you see a section titled, “Other Sellers on Amazon,” someone is selling on the same listing. (If you don’t see this section, that’s great news!)
Click the word “New” in blue to see the other sellers, then proceed to step two.
It’s completely legitimate for someone to buy your product from Amazon, then resell it as “Used” if they decide they don’t like it or don’t want it. These sellers are protected by the United States Department of Justice under the First Sale Doctrine. They can resell something they’ve bought.
But how can you be sure those sellers aren’t just buying from the same supplier you are, or listing a complete counterfeit? Thankfully, it’s easy to find out. Add the other seller’s listing to your Amazon cart and set your order quantity to 999. Amazon will adjust that number to the maximum number of items in that seller’s inventory. If they have more than a handful of that item, they’ve more than likely hijacked your product.
Ninety percent of the time, a scary cease-and-desist letter will do the trick. I have an assistant check for hijackers and send out letters every day, and by the next day, the hijackers have disappeared. If the letter isn’t enough to intimidate them, and they continue selling under your listing, proceed to step four.
When making your report, focus on what’s important to Amazon. By protecting your brand, you’re ensuring Amazon’s customers get the best possible treatment. Make it clear that a win for you is a win for Amazon. Here’s an example:
“I’ve been trying to build my brand, and what this person is selling is not a quality product. We bought the product they are selling, and it is made of nickel instead of stainless steel and doesn’t include a serving spoon. This person’s product is going to get bad reviews and leave Amazon customers dissatisfied. We’ve spent a long time building our brand on Amazon and are doing everything we can to protect our quality and integrity.”
You also need to order the product from your hijacker, take pictures that prove their product is different and inferior to yours, and send these to Amazon as well. This proves you know what you are talking about.
If you stress to Amazon that you want to please and serve the Amazon customer and focus on the facts and proof that you are the only legitimate seller of this product, Amazon will most likely help you protect your brand by removing the hijacker’s listing.
The more unique your product is, the more difficult it will be for hijackers to replicate. For example, instead of just selling a pair of glasses, you can sell a pair of glasses with a case, a cleaning cloth, and a “how-to” manual for cleaning. Write the manual yourself, and source each item from a different supplier.
Hijackers are trying to profit off the hard work of others – which means they’re lazy. If they realize they have to go to several different suppliers to replicate a bundle of items, they’re more likely to give up and move onto something easier. For hijackers, inconvenience is a powerful deterrent.
A client who is part of our coaching program designed his own tool. He sent the design to the supplier, the supplier built it, and the client was ready to buy. But, when he went to Alibaba, the supplier was advertising the product he had designed – and a ton of sellers already had it listed on Amazon.
This is, unfortunately, a common issue, and has caused plenty of strife for a lot of Amazon sellers. But, the good news is, there’s a way to prevent this from happening: don’t let your supplier know what the end product is.
Have your overseas supplier build and ship the parts for your product, then assemble the final product yourself. The supplier won’t be able to sell the final product (because they won’t even know what it is!) and other sellers won’t be able to find the final product on Alibaba.
Registering your brand in Amazon’s Brand Registry isn’t difficult. I teach Amazon sellers in our coaching program exactly how to do this, step-by-step, so here I’ll just give you the main components. All you need is your own website (you can do this in just a few hours with Shopify or have the Just One Dime team build you a beautiful, Amazon-integrated ecommerce website) and your logo on the packaging or the product itself (preferably both). Make sure your contact information is consistent across the board, so Amazon can easily connect your brand and your website to your Seller Central account.
Now, this isn’t a guarantee that no one will hijack your listing, but it does give you a few advantages. You’ll have complete control over your photos, title, bullet points, and product details. Nobody else will be able to edit your listing, and it will be more difficult for people to question the validity of your product.
This step is the most difficult, but also the most important.
A good place to start is The Private Label Lawyer. Suzi Hixon is amazing and her fee is incredibly fair. She’ll do everything she can to get your brand gated.
If you’d rather not use a lawyer, contact Seller Central support with your request, and they can put you in touch with someone within a few days. The waiting time on this is unpredictable so be patient.
When you’re writing your report to Amazon, you’ll be asked what you’ve done to protect your products. Focus on the customer, because protecting your customers means protecting Amazon’s customers.
Do your best to differentiate yourself; show Amazon why your brand is special. It’s also a good idea to focus, initially, on getting just a few ASINs gated – the ones that are most valuable to you, and that are the biggest targets of hijackers. Brand gating makes Amazon less money, because it eliminates potential sellers of your item. Increase your chances of getting accepted by doing whatever you can to make the process more convenient for Amazon.
Be aware: when you contact Seller Central, they might try to redirect you to submitting an infringement report, but that’s not the team you need. Be persistent and tell them, “I want my brand gated. Could you please put me in contact with an internal team?”
If you’re looking to expedite this process, join our team! Members of our coaching program have access to an email contact inside Amazon!
There was a day when you did not have to file a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to get brand gated, although it did increase your chances. Today, it's a necessity. A trademark is a sign that you’re taking your brand seriously, and it’s an added layer of protection for your business.
Even without a trademark, you can still use the “TM” symbol to let other sellers know that you’re claiming your brand as your own. However, this doesn’t provide as much protection as officially filing a trademark.
There are a few different sites you’ll want to visit during this process:
1. Go to USPTO.gov and search for your brand name. If your brand name, or a similar name, is already trademarked, you’ll need to change your name. When you file, the USPTO will do the same search, and you’ll be approved if your name is unique and no one contests it.
However, there could be someone out there using the same name as you who has yet to file a trademark. Be careful: if they started using the name first, they could take you to court and sue you for using their name, even if you have a trademark and they don’t. To avoid this, do a bit of extra research before settling on a name for your brand.
2. At knowem.com, type in your brand name and search for anyone using it as a handle on social media. If it’s already taken, your chances of marketing yourself well on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are limited, even with a trademark. Changing your name now might save you a lot of headache in the future.
3. Compumark.com is your best bet for an extremely thorough name search – even more thorough than the USPTO search. Sure, it will cost you $600 to $700, but when you’re making millions, that will seem like pocket change. If you want to protect your business 10 years down the road, you need to be willing to put in the time and money from the start.
I’ve seen too many sellers give up after having their products hijacked on Amazon. Hopefully, these nine steps are enough to show you that you can protect your brand and business – and it’s easy! You might get knocked down a few times, but you can always get back up and keep fighting.
Protect your brand.
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