Nowadays, with the Amazon marketplace getting very competitive, it is more important than ever to build a brand. Building a brand starts with picking the right name. You do not want to pick a brand name that is already in use or even trademarked.
Customers love great products. If you are able to create a positive customer experience, your customers will start associating your brand with quality. This will result in generating more sales. Especially when you start selling more products in the same niche. Also, a high-perceived brand value will make your listing stand out among the competition. Even if they sell the exact same private label product as you!
That’s the power of branding.
Since April 2017, Amazon is making it a requirement for brands to register its logo and intellectual property in order to gain brand registry. This will make it easier for brands once registered to take down hijackers from your listing. Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace Mentions the change “ will let Amazon remove listings and potentially cancel seller accounts if counterfeit products are spotted.”
Using a brand name that is already trademarked is a prohibited seller activity. On its website, Amazon states:
“The Business Name (identifying a seller’s business entity on Amazon) must be a name that: accurately identifies the seller; is not misleading; and the seller has the right to use (that is, the name cannot include the trademark of, or otherwise infringe on, any trademark or other intellectual property right of any person).”
Failure to comply with this policy can result in Amazon:
- Cancelling your product listing
- Suspending your use of Amazon tools and reports, and/or
- Removing your selling privileges
Moreover, a trademark owner might file suit against you for trademark infringement. Legal advice and lawsuits are very costly, and can potentially put you out of business. CJ Rosenbaum the Amazon Sellers Lawyer explains the three potential consequences of infringement in this article.
So how do you make sure you pick a brand name that isn’t already taken, or even trademarked?
That’s what we’ll cover in this article. We’ll go over the following:
- What is a Trademark?
- 3 Steps to Check if Your Brand Name is Trademarked
- 3 Steps to Check if Your Brand Name is Already in Use
Legal disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice. Use it at your own risk. Although we do our best to give you accurate and useful information, you should consult a lawyer if you want to assess your legal position.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a:
- word, name, symbol, device, or any combination,
- used (or intended to be used) to:
- identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller from those of others, and
- indicate the source of the goods/services.
That’s a mouthful. But something you should be aware of.
A brand name isn’t automatically trademarked: in order to get trademark protection, one will need to file for trademark registration. A registered trademark is an intellectual property right, which gives the owner an exclusive legal right to the use of that trademark.
There doesn’t have to be an exact match in order to establish trademark infringement. Your brand name can still infringe on a trademark if it resembles that trademark to such extent that customers get confused and mistakenly assume the brand and trademark are related. For example, if you choose the brand name Drunkin’ Donuts to sell donuts with liquor in it, Dunkin’ Donuts will probably come after you.
It may not always be clear if the brand name you have in mind actually infringes on a trademark. Trademarks are registered for specific categories of goods or services, and protection is limited to those categories. Your FBA product may fall in a totally different category.
Nevertheless, proceed with caution. As indicated above, legal advice and especially litigation is expensive. And it’s a distraction that you don’t need when building your FBA business.
Also, think of your long-term strategy. You are building a real business. If you ever want to sell your FBA business later on, pending trademark litigation will negatively impact the purchase price, which means less money in your pocket. Keep it simple, and save your money for inventory and marketing.
3 Steps to Check if Your Brand Name is Trademarked
Here are the 3 steps to checking if the brand name you want to use for your Amazon business is trademarked:
Step 1: Search for your chosen brand name in the most important trademark databases.
There are three trademark databases you should search in to check whether your brand name is trademarked:
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This is the database for US trademarks, and most important for you to check since you will probably launch your first FBA product on Amazon’s U.S. website.
- European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). This is the database for European Community Trademarks. Check this if you will sell your products through Amazon’s websites in the EU.
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). There is no such thing as a world trademark, but the WIPO database gives an overview of locally registered trademarks. This is a good secondary source to check. Especially if you are considering branching out to Amazon marketplaces outside of the US and EU.
Step 2: If you find a trademark that is (almost) identical to your chosen brand name, first check if it still active. If the trademark has expired, the owner no longer has an exclusive right to its use.
Step 3: If the trademark is still active: what categories is the trademark registered for? You may still be able to use your chosen brand name if you’ll be selling products that fall in a completely different category.
With that said, if there is a trademark match, tread lightly. Unless you have very good reasons to stick with your chosen brand name, the safest option is to pick a different brand name.
If there was no trademark match, you’ve passed the most important hurdle! But you’re not done yet.
3 Steps to Check if Your Brand Name is Already in Use
Not every brand name is registered as a trademark. But you still want to avoid selling under a brand name that is identical to existing brand names. Why?
First off: identical brand names will confuse your potential customers, which can affect your brand value. But even more important if you’re selling on Amazon: if the existing brand is enrolled in the Amazon Brand Registry program, the brand owner can prevent you from selling under that same brand on Amazon.
Here are the 3 steps to checking if your brand name is already in use:
Step 1: First go to the Amazon website and search for your chosen brand name. Is someone already selling under this name? Then move on and pick a different brand name.
Step 2: Google your chosen brand name. Check the search results and assess if your chosen brand name is already in use. Important: just because your brand name shows up in the search results doesn’t mean someone is selling under that brand name!
Step 3: Go to Knowem.com and see if your chosen brand name is already registered as a domain name. The great thing about Knowem also allows you to see which social networks the name is currently registered under. Like with step 2, analyze the results. Just because your brand name shows up in a domain name doesn’t mean someone is using it as a brand name.
So there you have it: you now know how to check if your brand name is trademarked or otherwise in use.
Once you’ve cleared your chosen brand name, you’ve got a winner! You no longer need to worry about potential trademark infringement or Amazon Brand Registry claims. You can now move forward and register your trademark safely, and then focus all of your attention to building your brand and growing your Amazon business!