TAS 152 How This Attorney Removes Hijackers and Protects Amazon Sellers

It’s a big deal when another person or company undercuts your Amazon product listing and begins selling an inferior product as if it is yours. It’s called hijacking and can be a very serious problem. Scott’s addressed this issue in a handful of episodes lately and today he’s chatting with an attorney, Ted Limus, who’s helped some clients of his take on hijackers and get them off the product listings. Scott’s got lots of questions for Ted about best practices for addressing this important issue in an effective way. Be sure you listen to get some great tips for handling hijackers.

The “ramp up” strategy this attorney uses to address product hijacking.

Attorney Ted Luymes has discovered that the best way to approach the hijacking of one of his client’s listings is to start with the least threatening approach first, then escalate things as needed. He begins with a simple and kind email to the hijacker, asking them to do the right thing. The assumption is that the person on the other end of the communication has made a mistake and is giving them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a kinder, gentler way to approach the issue that gets results 50% of the time. You can hear how Ted escalates the process from there, on this episode.

You can write your own cease and desist letter.

A Cease and Desist letter is simply a documented correspondence that you send to a person who is breaking Amazon’s product listing rules, notifying them that you are aware of their infraction and that you are warning them that they must stop their activity on the listing or else you will take legal action. It’s fine for you to write your own C&D letter, but there are certain things you need to make sure you do in that letter to keep yourself out of legal trouble. On this episode, attorney Ted Luymes shares the basics of what can and should not go into a cease and desist letter, so be sure to listen.

Is a Trademark really necessary?

Today’s guest, attorney Ted Luymes, recommends that Amazon sellers who are making a decent profit on their product sales consider going through the process of registering a Trademark for their brand name. Doing so gives you a very strong legal footing, should a hijacker try to take over your listings. Amazon is much more likely to take action against a hijacker if you can easily prove your ownership of your brand through a trademark. But it’s important to note that you aren’t required by anyone to get a trademark, it’s just a good idea. Hear Ted speak to the process of securing a trademark and what to expect as a benefit, on this episode.

The best prevention against hijackers.

If you want to keep hijackers from taking over your product listings, there are some specific things you can do to make it less likely that your products will be targeted. First off, make sure your product is unique. Logos on the product, specialized packaging, combinations of unique products into bundles, and many other things can help. On this episode Ted Luymes also shares something you can do with your product listing to inform your buyers of a way that they can watch for counterfeit products masquerading as yours. You can get those details by listening to this episode of The Amazing Seller.

OUTLINE OF THIS EPISODE OF THE AMAZING SELLER

  • [0:05] Introduction of the topic and guest, Ted Luymes, attorney.
  • [2:03] How you can attend one of Scott’s free workshops.
  • [2:45] An upcoming event in Denver, Colorado on May 1st – Limited space!
  • [5:02] What is product hijacking?
  • [6:12] How Ted got into helping Amazon sellers with hijacking issues.
  • [9:59] Ted’s “ramp up” strategy.
  • [14:00] A kind approach is the first step.. and how it works 50% of the time.
  • [18:20] The next step: Cease and Desist.
  • [20:20] Tips for using a cease and desist letter.
  • [23:00] The next step: Following Amazon’s process for disputing an issue.
  • [27:57] The process of following Amazon’s process.
  • [30:46] Dealing with counterfeit situations.
  • [33:30] Why bundling, differentiation, and good descriptive instructions help.
  • [36:37] How a hijacking impacts your listing in terms of shipping time.
  • [38:19] The benefits of a trademark and using the Amazon brand registry.
  • [40:02] The trademarking process compared to the brand registry process.
  • [43:22] The overall results Ted has experienced and how effective he’s been.
  • [46:19] Ted’s advice and how you can connect with him for more info or help.

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TRANSCRIPT TAS 152

TAS 152 : How This Attorney Removes Hijackers and Protects Amazon Sellers

Hey, hey. What’s up, everyone? Welcome back to another episode of The Amazing Seller podcast. This is episode number 152 and today I’m really, really excited to have a special guest on. His name is Ted Luymes and he’s an attorney. I wanted to have him on because he’s not just an ordinary attorney. He’s an attorney that has actually helped Amazon sellers get hijackers off of their listing. He’s taken action against them and he’s willing to come on and share what he’s done and what he’s learned and the ins and the outs of the Amazon platform as far as, I guess…

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the support system that they have. He classifies it as they have their own little judge and jury there that you have to go up against. He talks all about that and also what we can do to prevent but also what we can do if we need to take action against them. Really, really good, good conversation.

First off I’ve got to give a little time-out here. If I sound a little out of breath I apologize. I just got inside, back inside that is, from my home office here. I was just getting ready to record and I heard a truck pull up and guess who it was. Go ahead, guess. DHL. I had another shipment come in. I wasn’t expecting it today. I thought it was going to come in tomorrow. I had to stop this, run outside. It’s freezing outside, by the way. We’re supposed to get snow and sleet today. Now I’m back in. I’m trying to get adapted back to this heat, trying to get back into the zone, if you will. I just wanted to say, hey, that’s the way that it goes. We’ve got Brody sitting here just kind of chilling and he gets up and he starts barking and then everything just gets out of sorts. The DHL truck came, delivered, they’re gone. I’m back in the chair here. We’re getting ready to rock and roll, all right? I just wanted to put that little bit of information there for you so you can understand where I just was.

Okay, so before we do jump into this awesome interview I wanted to give you a quick little reminder on a couple different things. Number one is if you are brand new to the podcast, welcome by the way and thank you so much for taking time out of your day. I wanted to invite you to an upcoming workshop. In that workshop I’m going to break down the five phases for picking a product, choosing a supplier, pre-launching, launching, promoting, all of that good stuff. The five phases to actually get a product launched on Amazon. Then I also answer live Q&A. If you want to register for an upcoming workshop, head over to theamazingseller.com/workshop. Once again, that’s theamazingseller.com/workshop and you can register for an upcoming workshop there, okay?

One little update I have here for you. If you’ve listened to episode 150 that’s where I talk about getting together with like-minded people and you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with and all of that fun stuff. If you haven’t heard that episode definitely check that one out. It’s a really, really good episode for really getting the mind set and the mind right and really training your mind to be successful, all right? What I did also talk about is possibly doing a small, little event. A really, really small, intimate event, maybe 20-25 people where we get into a room and we have hot seat sessions where you get up there and you get to talk about your business or whatever stage you are in your business. Then we get to work through it and have a breakthrough for you. For that what we’re going to do is … and we have officially said that we’re going to do it now on May 1st 2016 and this will be in Denver, Colorado. If you want more information- I’m not going to spend too much time on it here- if you want more information about that and to hear about when the tickets do go on sale for that, head over to theamazingseller.com/live. Again, that’s theamazingseller.com/live. Again, we’re only going to be having about 20-25, maybe 30 tops that we would have in this particular small event. If you did want to get on that list definitely head over and do that.

This is something that was on my bucket list that I wanted to do for 2016 and I really, really want to be able to work really close … I always talk on my podcast about rubbing elbows and really rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. I really, really wanted to do this. Hopefully this is the first of many that we’re going to be able to do and maybe travel around to different cities and different states. I don’t know. I’m kind of rambling here on this because I’m really, really excited about it and I can’t wait to do this first one. Yeah, you can say I’m pretty excited, all right?

Okay, let’s go ahead and listen to this awesome interview that I was able to do with Ted Luymes, an attorney who is an expert at getting hijackers to go take a hike and get off of our listings, all right? Enjoy the interview.

[INTERVIEW] [00:05:04] SV: Hey, Ted. Thank you so much for hanging out with the TAS group today, the community. Thank you so much and I’m really excited to have you on the show.

[00:05:13] TL: Thank you, Scott. Great to be here.

[00:05:15] SV: Yeah. I’ve been getting a lot of questions throughout the time that I’ve been podcasting from people that I’m associating with now. One of the biggest things that I get asked about is listing hijacking and how we can protect ourselves and what does it mean? Some people that are new they’re like, “What does this mean? Hijacking, that sounds really bad.” It’s just the term that I think that the industry has coined or they’ve put a label on it. We can talk exactly what it is in detail but for people that are tuning in, it’s really when you have someone come onto your listing that has a similar product and then starts to sell their product as yours. Then from there they’re capitalizing on all the hard work that you’ve done to get to that point. For anyone that’s tuning in, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. Also, we have an attorney on here that we can actually ask some questions to.

Ted, why don’t you give us a little bit of a background on how you even got into the Amazon space as far as helping sellers?

[00:06:23] TL: Yeah. Thanks, Scott. I really got into it by accident. I’ve been practicing the law in Southern California for the last 25 years and until last year was a partner in a medium sized firm that we did civil litigation of all kinds. That’s going into court and helping people with their business disputes and filing lawsuits and defending lawsuits. About five or six years ago one of my garment industry clients started having problems on Amazon. They noticed that their photographs that were copyrighted were being used on Amazon without their consent and they also noticed some of their own customers who were sellers on Amazon were complaining that their listings were being hijacked by largely Chinese companies that were coming on as sellers and undercutting their prices very substantially. They asked if I could do something about that and I thought, “I’m a lawyer. I’m supposed to come up with solutions for my clients,” and so that’s what I did.

I dove in and quickly found out that Amazon really has its own kind of legal system, its own little judicial system with its own set of rules and its own judge and jury and executioner. I became familiar with the rules and started doing all of the things that you’re supposed to do and in the process though, learned that those were not always effective. So I started using resources outside of Amazon when it was appropriate to protect my clients from these, what I call them rogue sellers but they’re really just hijacking my clients’ listings.

[00:08:36] SV: That’s interesting. I think- it’s for people to understand this too- if you have a major brand out there, I’m talking like Fortune 500 company and they’re out there and they have products that we all know very, very well. Then you get a Chinese company or any company for that matter that comes in and they’re going to sell a product on that listing. They’re going to act as though it’s the same but it’s really a counterfeit product in a sense. The reason why a major brand or even ourselves would be concerned about that is because we could have our products being sold to our customers technically with a product that’s not really the real deal. It’s not the real product. That can make our brand look bad and start getting bad reviews and start getting customer complaints and all of that stuff. Just for people to understand, yes, it’s for big companies and you got brought into this by that, but it can happen to just us little guys that are doing private labeling and trying to create our own brand of unique products.

I think it’s interesting how you got into this but then now also seeing that it’s something that’s happening I don’t want to say every single day to everyone but it is happening more frequently and there is different things that we can do to protect ourselves. That’s why I wanted to have you on is to really pull back the curtain as far what did you do in this circumstance where you had this company contact you and said, “This is what we can do.” Obviously you’ve got to get yourself caught up to speed, right? You’ve got to learn, like you said, and you learned kind of quickly that they have their own kind of judge and jury. What do you do the first thing in this venture now that you’re going to try to help them?

[00:10:22] TL: It was a learning process. I want to clarify that this wasn’t really a major brand that initially contacted me. I’ll tell you now that a lot of my new clients who are contacting me are people who started out small and they’ve had one or two listings do really well and they find out all of a sudden that somebody is coming along and trying to hijack the listing. It affects the ma and pa businesses as well as the major corporations. Of course, the big brands can afford to hire people to do this on a professional basis to monitor the Amazons and the other e-commerce sites. A lot of my clients who are contacting me are folks like your listeners who have taken action and have gone through the steps and have started to see some real success in their businesses and somebody wants to take that away from them. So-

[00:11:35] SV: You have dealt with little guys like us, as I call them?

[00:11:38] TL: Absolutely.

[00:11:38] SV: Okay, good. I knew you did but I didn’t know you did right in the beginning but okay. You got brought in by someone that started small but then started seeing some success. Then they started getting hijacked and then they contacted you. Then that’s where you started learning the process. What was your first initial thing after you figured some of this stuff out? Or maybe what are some of the things you thought you needed to do but it didn’t really help? Maybe lead us through your first steps as a new person in this where you’re figuring this thing out as an attorney that’s bringing your skills as an attorney to the Amazon space.

[00:12:12] TL: Sure. I have slowly developed a strategy that I call sort of a ramp-up strategy. That is start small and then gradually work up the intensity against the rogue sellers. When I started out I did what a typical lawyer does, and that is prepare a blood-dripping cease and desist letter with all of the threats and the citations to the Lanham Act and the Copyright Act and all of those things that we lawyers do. I was finding that that really didn’t have much impact, especially because most of these rogue sellers were over in China and either there was a language barrier or they didn’t care that some lawyer in Los Angeles was contacting them because they’re in Hong Kong or Guangzhou and they’re just not going to pay attention to a lawyer. It’s not a threat to them.

I needed to find ways, develop ways that would get their attention. Of course, the first way to do that is to enlist Amazon’s help. Then if that didn’t work then go outside of Amazon as much as possible and find creative ways to reach solutions for my clients.

[00:13:52] SV: Okay. Now bring us up to speed as far as like, okay, so your first step is to obviously try the letter, right? You try to send them a cease and desist and see if that works. If that doesn’t work obviously then you go down the rabbit hole of going through Amazon’s process, right?

[00:14:14] TL: Yeah. It is kind of rabbit hole. Even before the cease and desist, Scott, I like to send a private message to the rogue seller because that’s easy to do. I make it really polite. I put away my sword and all of the lawyerisms and I make a real polite message and I just assume that hey, maybe your listing against my client’s ASIN by accident but here’s what it is. You’re violating Amazon’s rules. I’m very polite and I ask them to simply delist. I do identify myself as an attorney. I put my address on there. I’m hiding from no one and you can look me up on the California State Bar and confirm that I am in fact an attorney. You’d be surprised but I’d say maybe half of the time that works.

[00:15:19] SV: Okay. That’s pretty good. You’re saying like a 50% that works. Being nice and putting in the subtle things of what they’re breaking the law, if you will and then highlighting it but then saying, “I’d really appreciate it if you would just do the right thing and back off and delist.”

[00:15:39] TL: Yeah. That would work for your listeners as well. Again, be polite. Take a civil tone. We’re in Amazon’s world, right? This is their sandbox. They make rules and we’re just playing in it. If you’ll notice that all of your communications with Amazon when they communicate with us it’s always really civil. It’s “Greetings from Amazon,” right? I’ve even seen emails from Amazon where they’re banning somebody from Amazon for life but it always begins with the same “Greetings from Amazon.” It’s always very friendly and cordial and civil. Whenever we’re on Amazon we should always take that tone, a civil tone. Be nice to each other. Be polite. Say please and say thank you. When the rogue sellers do delist from my clients’ ASIN in response to a simple message from me I always thank them or I give them a heads up and give them a good rating. I want to reward the good behavior and sometimes it is accidental that they get on an ASIN. They’re new to Amazon and they just don’t quite know what they’re doing. They don’t know what the rules are. We’re helping them to learn the rules as well.

[00:17:11] SV: Yeah. I love that. I’ve always said that. When someone does something bad to you, even in the supermarket, your first thing should always be trying to politely get that fixed. Then obviously when you get to that one point you have to then either report it or whatever. I’ve always found that niceness usually does win. As much as we’re upset and we’re thinking we’re losing sales and all of this stuff, again, I think you’re going to get a response whether that’s a yes or no or maybe they’re going to be nasty or whatever, but you will get a response. Let me ask you, how long generally would you wait to hear back from them and maybe how long do they usually reply?

[00:18:02] TL: Remember if we’re dealing with sellers in China that they’re on the other side of the world so it’s a different time zone. You need to at least give them 24 hours.

[00:18:14] SV: Okay, yeah. I think that’s fair.

[00:18:15] TL: Yeah.

[00:18:15] SV: Yeah, I think that’s totally fair. As far as the ones that are located in Hong Kong or wherever … Let’s say for example, because I’ve seen this happen where you’ll have a hijacker come on and then they’ll be able to sell or undercut you so they’re going to get the Buy Box but they’re not going to fulfill that for four to six weeks. That’s going to hurt your listing really bad because then obviously people don’t want to wait that long or they’re going to be upset thinking that they’re going to get it sooner then they’re not. Is there anything that can speed up the process if that doesn’t work? Maybe we can dig into that a little bit as we move forward here. Let’s say for example that doesn’t work. What’s our next step in this process if we want to get this hijacker off?

[00:19:16] TL: After leaving them a polite message and if that doesn’t work then I do send them a cease and desist. Again, it’s polite, it’s civil but it’s forceful as well. I want to be clear and identify exactly what law or what Amazon rule they have violated, and identify clearly what law or what Amazon rule they have violated and identify clearly what ASIN or ASINS the violations are occurring on. I respectfully insist that they comply with Amazon’s rules and then I outline the consequences and I set a reasonable deadline, usually 24 to 48 hours. It’s got to be a reasonable deadline.

[00:20:06] SV: Sure.

[00:20:08] TL: There are a couple things that I think your listeners should know about using cease and desists because I see them sort of indiscriminately used across Amazon and elsewhere. One thing would be never to pretend that you are from Amazon or that Amazon has asked you to contact the seller. Another thing would be don’t say that you’re an attorney if you are not. Impersonating a lawyer in the United States can have serious consequences so never do that unless you actually are licensed. Then don’t threaten consequences that you’re not prepared to follow through with. I see people saying that they’re going to sue or that they’re going to obtain penalties or punitive damages. That’s never going to happen, at least not usually in the Amazon world. It’s unlikely to happen so don’t threaten those kinds of consequences. Then fourth would be never use an unprofessional tone. Keep the letter civil and courteous. I know we tend to get our emotions involved when somebody is deliberately sabotaging our business and it’s hard to step back and remove yourself from that, but keep a professional tone and keep it civil.

[00:21:42] SV: Those are great. Those are really, really good points and I think that they’re doable. You don’t have to go out there and go right after them especially right off the bat as much as we’re upset. We’re thinking we’re losing money. I just had a guy contact me. Actually, it was through the Periscope I just did because I was mentioning I was having you on. They were talking more about a patent more than a hijacker and kind of like what happens- and we don’t have to answer this right now- but what happens. Someone just contacted me and said, “I’m violating a patent and now I’ve got 3 thousand units.” The same thing can happen if someone hijacks your listing and you’ve got 3 thousand units and now you’re buried and you’re not going to be able to offload those 3 thousand units. It does become almost in a panic, in a sense, to where you want to get them off as quick as possible. Sometimes that means doing not the right things to try to get them off.

That’s why I did want to have you on. I wanted to have really, I guess, a plan that we can set in place if we wanted to try to do it ourselves before having to contact an attorney like yourself. To try do it where you could do it in a civil way but also in a speedy way where we’re not going to have to wait weeks. I know now … Let’s move into kind of like … Okay, let’s say that that stuff doesn’t work. You don’t even get a response. Now we have to go into the whole Amazon method which maybe you can take us through as well. I know part of that is buying the product before they’re even going to talk to you and taking pictures to show that it’s not in fact the same product.

[00:23:22] TL: Yeah, correct. Amazon has, as you know, their own online forms that they want you to use to report copyright or trademark infringement or violations of their rules. I’ll tell you from my experience that Amazon is more primarily concerned with violations of their own rules. The folks at seller performance, who by the way are overworked, the folks at seller performance who are dealing with thousands of these kinds of reports a day, they have been trained that as long as people are not violating the rules that Amazon is not opening itself up to lawsuits. That is of primary concern of course to Amazon.

[00:24:19] SV: Sure.

[00:24:21] TL: So if you can, report things as violations of the rules as opposed to saying, “They’re violating my trademark or my copyright.” Most violations of the rules do involve a violation of trademark or copyright but you don’t have to really be familiar with the copyright or trademark laws. You should be familiar with Amazon’s rules. Especially if you’re planning on doing this over the long term you should be familiar with them. Use the online form. When you do it the form is going to walk you through what information they want. You need to be specific as to what ASIN or ASINS you’re reporting about, what the nature of the violation is.

You’re going to see that there’s an “additional comments” box. It’s the one place where you can get a little bit creative, where you can add some input. What I would recommend that your listeners do is just make a concise statement of the rules violation. Again, don’t go wandering off into copyright or trademark. You’re not a lawyer. You’re not really equipped to be discussing those things anyway. You should be able to point to chapter and verses to what the rules violation is. Typically with a hijacking seller it’s that the product that they are selling does not exactly match the listing. Get right to the point in your first sentence and tell them what the rules violation is.

Another thing is that seller performance does not want to hear about your gripes with the rogue seller. They don’t want you to go on and on about what the rogue seller said or did to you in the private messages. They don’t want any of that. Just focus on the violation. Don’t go on and on. Again, the folks at seller performance who are reviewing your report they probably only have maybe a few seconds to look at these things and decide yay or nay.

[00:26:45] SV: Got you, yeah.

[00:26:47] TL: Make it really concise. Get right to the point, “Here’s the rules violation,” and then close with as much evidence as you possibly can. Hopefully your listeners have been taking your advice in your podcasts and they’ve brand registered and they have done everything they can to differentiate their product from everybody else out there. So that even without doing a test buy they can describe “I’m the only source of this product and so I know without any doubt that whatever the rogue seller has got is not my product and does not match my listing.” If they’ve taken those steps, Scott, they’ve put themselves already in a position where they can describe in two or three sentences in the additional comments field exactly how they know for certain that the product that the other seller has does not match the listing.

[00:27:58] SV: Okay. Take us a little bit through that process though. Okay, we fill out the form and everything but do we fill the form out before we actually do the test buy?

[00:28:09] TL: Yeah. Although if you can do it, go ahead and do the test buy early on. For some products where it’s a couple of hundred bucks you’re thinking, “Geez, that’s a lot of money to do a test buy.” If it’s 5, 10, 20 dollars or something go ahead and do the test buy and get the report in. 9 times out of 10 seller performance is going to shoot you back an email and say, “We require a test buy. We’re going to need to know what the purchase ID number was and all that.” They’re going to put you on that test buy treadmill anyway. Everybody hates making test buys especially from China. Often it’s going to take weeks for the product to come and in the meantime you’re losing a lot of sales.

Here’s what I do. When I get back the email saying, “We’re requiring you to use the test buy,” don’t accept that as gospel. I usually respond to that and I say, “We’ve made a test buy,” and if I have an ID number I even include that. Then I request that the rogue seller be removed from the ASIN while we’re waiting for the test buy to arrive.

[00:29:30] SV: I like that.

[00:29:31] TL: I just explain, “Look, it says it’s going to be shipping from China. This could take four to six weeks. In the meantime we’re suffering damages and I’m going to win this report anyway so how about suspending or removing that seller from the ASIN?” Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t but it always helps to ask.

[00:29:59] SV: Yeah. I do like that because again, you’re speaking in that tone but you’re also letting them know that you’re pretty confident that they will be removed. You’re also saying, “To be fair here why don’t you just pause their listing because …” not their listing but their … Well, yeah, their listing because they’re topping on yours but they’re trying to fulfill it with their product. By saying that there could be a chance that they could say, “Okay, that’s fair. We’ll go ahead and we’ll pause them until we figure out if this is the case or not. If it is the case then, good, then we keep them suspended. If it’s not the case then they’re going to release them and let them keep selling on there.”

[00:30:43] TL: Correct.

[00:30:43] SV: Then that would be another … You’d have to then keep battling it somehow. If that was the case then you’d have to deal with again trying to show that your product is different. Let’s talk a little bit about that, about differentiation on a product as far as what do you feel is something … Like if someone has a product and it’s pretty generic yet let’s just say they have custom branding on it of their logo and then they also have maybe some type of booklet that comes with it. There’s two scenarios here. Let’s say that the rogue seller actually doesn’t include the logo and doesn’t include the insert or the booklet that comes with it. That would be a clear case that it’s not the same, correct?

[00:31:38] TL: Correct.

[00:31:39] SV: Okay. What if they go ahead and they copy everything? They even copy your logo on there, they copy the booklet. They do everything exactly the same. Now it’s like you have a pair of Oakley sunglasses that were made by Oakley and you have a pair that are made by a counterfeit that you can buy on the beach.

[00:31:58] TL: Yeah, that’s a true counterfeit situation where they’re copying everything: your logo, your color scheme, your all of that. That’s a true counterfeit situation. I advise my clients check your supply line. You want to make sure that there isn’t a leak somewhere where your own supplier or factory or some distributor along the way is not selling your product where they are in fact getting a true version of your product. Technically they’re not in violation of any Amazon rules if they have been able to source your product from your factory or from your supplier. You’re going to need to double back and check on that.

[00:32:55] SV: Yeah. As far as you said, we can do our best to make sure that that doesn’t happen but I do think if you brand it with your logo, if you also do then in turn create something along with it, whether that’s a booklet, whether … I mean a printed booklet. I’m not talking about an e-book. I’m talking like a booklet. I’m talking maybe a certain bag that comes with it, whatever to make that product unique to you and your brand. The other thing, and tell me if you think this is a good idea or not, but I also think bundling is another option. It makes it harder for someone to come in and find those two together and merge them into one package.

[00:33:43] TL: Yeah. Bundling is a great idea, Scott, not only from the aspects of a seller and generating sales and having your own ASIN to go off of. From my standpoint as a lawyer defending that ASIN from other sellers that might come on it, bundling is great. Anything that you can do within the detail page itself that tells buyers that it ships from the US as opposed to China or that “We’ve got a one year warranty. Look out. If you buy from someone else it may not be a genuine product. They may not honor the warranty and those things.”

[00:34:34] SV: Maybe even putting in there … I like that too that what you’re saying there, Ted, is putting in even a bullet or a description somewhere in there and saying like, “We are the original,” whatever, “manufacturer of our exclusive,” whatever, whatever style it is or whatever. Then from there saying like, “Be aware of counterfeit and whatever.” You’re almost bringing it to their attention that make sure that you’re buying the original and this one here is the original.

[00:35:08] TL: Definitely. Put that right on the detail page. Put it in the product description where it’s new or used. Tell them, “Be very specific to look out for something that ships from China or wherever,” and that you’re going to honor the warranty and to look out for counterfeits.

[00:35:30] SV: I like that. I like that a lot, yeah. Even though we’re buying it from China we’re shipping it from the US in most cases. If you’re not shipping it from the US don’t do that. Most of us are shipping … Well, I can’t say all of us but myself personally it’s shipped here basically to my home office, which let’s call it my warehouse. Then from there it’s being packaged to be delivered to Amazon. It is being shipped from my location to Amazon so it is being shipped within the US.

[00:36:03] TL: Yeah.

[00:36:03] SV: Some people are directly getting it shipped from China to there so you have to be careful on how you word and how you phrase that. You don’t want to, obviously, be saying something that’s false. Yeah, for sure because then you also need to let people know that if it’s shipping from China that could be four to six weeks before you’re going to receive it, and if it’s coming from China you are most likely not going to get the warranty that we offer for our brand.

[00:36:30] TL: Right. It complicates returns and everything else so one more reason to use FBA also.

[00:36:38] SV: Yeah, I love that. That’s really good. How does that work exactly? If they’re hijacking you and you’re fulfilling by Amazon are they going to come on then and fulfill it by merchant?

[00:36:54] TL: Yeah.

[00:36:54] SV: Okay, so because of that … I kind of knew that but now that I’m thinking this back I’m like, if they hijack your listing it takes it out of FBA and converts it over to an FBM on the main page now.

[00:37:07] TL: Yeah, that’s right.

[00:37:08] SV: Yeah. See, that’s even worse for your listing because now when people see it they don’t maybe not know that but it is going to when they go to see as far as how long the shipping is going to take. Once they go through that process they’re going to have to see that it’s being shipped from there and it’s going to take up to X amount of weeks.

[00:37:31] TL: Yeah, that’s right. Although I’ll tell you, Scott, I’m seeing a lot of these rogue sellers starting to set up shop, especially here in Southern California since a lot of the goods are going to be coming in through LA anyhow. They set up their warehouse in their apartment or a little storefront somewhere and they’ve got a couple of kids that are just doing their fulfillment but then they can say, “Hey, it ships from California.”

[00:38:04] SV: Got you, yeah.

[00:38:07] TL: They’re getting wise to this and starting to use points within the US so that they don’t have to ship directly from China.

[00:38:20] SV: Okay. Would you say that it helps to be brand registered?

[00:38:25] TL: Oh, clearly. Yeah, it definitely does. It also helps to have a registered trademark with USPTO and to copyright your photos. Those are all things that are expenses. Especially for a new seller you’re probably not going to incur the expense. If you’ve only got a few listings you’re not going to incur the expense of trademarking your brand. As your listeners progress and become more successful that’s definitely something they want to do is go ahead and register their trademark. It does not cost that much. Usually it’s a few hundred dollars, at most maybe a thousand dollars to get that done. If you have a lot of listings and you’re using your own photos, go ahead and register the copyright to your photos as well. The fee is only 55 dollars a crack and you can register a whole batch of photos at the same time. Those are all things that are helpful especially if you’re in communication with seller performance and they’re asking you for proof about things. As a lawyer, being able to show them that my client is brand registered on Amazon, they’ve registered their trademark and here’s the number. Not only that but I’ve got certificates of registration for the copyrights. Boom. I get results.

[00:39:56] SV: Got you. Yeah, the more paper trail, I guess, that we can give them, the easier it would be for them to make that decision-

[00:40:03] TL: Yes.

[00:40:03] SV: -by clearly doing that. I know myself personally I’ve done a few trademarks and some take longer than others. How does that work when you do have a trademark or you’re going after a trademark? Does it go by the date you file it or is it really the date that it’s been fully finalized?

[00:40:23] TL: Yeah, for a trademark it’s the date that it has been approved and it’s actually registered. It is a process and it typically takes a number of months-

[00:40:36] SV: Yeah, it definitely does.

[00:40:38] SV: Yeah. I was going to say I’ve seen it take for myself between six and eight months so yeah, that is a process. Brand registry on the other hand that literally took me, I don’t know, less than 48 hours. It’s a matter of you just applying for it. Myself personally it was just having to show the UPC codes that you have owned and then also that you have a website and that the website is branded and all of that stuff. That was really it. There wasn’t much else with that and there is no cost to you to do that. Yeah, I would say definitely I would recommend anyone, even just starting out with a brand, to go ahead and do that. That’s another question that some people had as far as- and we don’t have to get too deep in the weeds here with this- but having a trademark, let’s say. If you have that one trademark and then you roll out five different products underneath that brand, you don’t have to trademark each product. It’s just the brand that you’re trademarking, correct?

[00:41:44] TL: That’s correct.

[00:41:45] SV: Okay. So you can have like an umbrella, in a sense, of that trademark as long as that brand is that trademark. If you do another brand … Let’s say you do one in the kitchen space and then you do one in the pet space and they’re two different brands, you’re going to need to trademark both of them.

[00:42:03] TL: Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, you’re on the right track, Scott.

[00:42:06] SV: Okay, good. Yeah, I just want to clarify because some people think that for every single individual product even though it’s underneath the same brand that they would want to trademark that. I think that would be more on a patent thing if each product was unique to itself then you would want to patent each one of those designs or product styles.

[00:42:26] TL: Yeah. Chances are that your listeners are not going to be really involved in patent law. It’s a lot more trademark and brand protection that they’re looking at. Clearly, for each product you don’t need to trademark each product. When we talk about trademark we’re just talking about the business name and logo that you’re doing business under. You can have a lot of different products under that umbrella, under that mark, that brand name. All it does it just differentiates you in the marketplace from everybody else, that’s all.

[00:43:10] SV: Okay. This has been very, very helpful, Ted. I appreciate you coming on and sharing some of the ins and the outs of what you’ve actually been through. Seeing it firsthand, working with Amazon … Would you say though that your results have been pretty good as far as dealing with these hijackers?

[00:43:34] TL: Yeah. I only get involved in the worst cases. Usually my clients come to me and they’ve already done everything that they possibly can to try to get rid of these sellers. They’re frustrated because they’ve seen their listing that they were making 10 – 20 – 30,000 a month off of all of a sudden sales are down to 0 and it’s because of this Chinese seller. They’re four, six, eight weeks into the process and they’ve gotten nowhere and so they come to me and they want a lifeline. I’ll say I have about 90% success in getting rid of the rogue sellers. The worst ones though it does take me four to six weeks. That’s an unusual case but sometimes in the very worst cases with a really sophisticated rogue seller it takes that long. Usually it takes anywhere from 5 to 10 days we’re able to get them off of my clients’ listings.

[00:44:43] SV: Wow, that’s impressive. That’s very, very impressive. You know what this kind of reminds me of? It reminds me of in the real estate world of doing an eviction. I know myself personally because I had some rental property and I had to do an eviction. I learned the process very quickly but I learned also that it definitely benefits the actual renter. You don’t really even have rights to your own property until you can have it finalized by the sheriff. You can definitely find some professional renters and in this case, you can find some professional hijackers. It reminds me-

[00:45:16] TL: Yeah. They use the very same-

[00:45:17] SV: Very similar.

[00:45:18] TL: They use the same technique, Scott. I’ve seen some of these … a rogue seller I dealt with two weeks ago. This guy was jumping on and off the listing. He would sell maybe three hours during prime time during the day here in the States and then he’d be off the listing. I’d get an email back from Amazon saying, “He’s off the listing.” I’d have to tell them, “Of course he’s off the listing. I told you he only stays on for three or four hours and he skips every other day but he’s still siphoning off of my sales from this listing.” You’d think they would be able to see that and I’m sure they do but they pretend like they can’t see it.

[00:46:03] SV: Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah, definitely like the real estate world. Unfortunately there’s always going to be professional scammers out there and we’ve just got to figure out a way to protect ourselves. I think that we’ve definitely helped the listeners here and I appreciate it. Is there any last parting words of advice? Maybe you can go ahead and tell people how to get a hold of you if they’re interested in talking with you further.

[00:46:34] TL: I like your motto, Scott. Take action. If you see that somebody is taking over your listing and they’re not selling your product, they’re a rogue seller, take action against them. There’s a lot that a seller can do on their own that usually is going to be effective if they do it in the right way. If you’ve got a rogue seller that you just can’t blast out of there and you need help then you need an attorney like me or somebody like me who’s a professional to deal with it. I’m happy to talk to you. My website is tedlawfirm.com or you can always give me a call at 626-993-7000. I’ll pick up the phone, we’ll talk about the problem and solutions and take it from there.

[00:47:31] SV: Awesome. I’ll also leave the link to your website on the show notes to this episode and the number there as well. If anybody contacts me in the future I’ll definitely be pointing him to you, Ted. I do get a lot of emails about this and I’ll usually either point them to a post that I’ve written or one that’s been written somewhere that I think it’s been useful. Now I think this episode will be the one that I’m going to point them to. I definitely will be putting your information in there. I think it’s important for people to understand too that if you contact an attorney they might not even understand what this is. The difference with Ted is Ted’s actually done it. I like it that you’ve actually been through this process and now you can help some of the sellers out that are battling this. I know how frustrating it can be. I know- and knock on wood- I’ve had pretty good luck with this but if it ever does happen I know who I’m going to be calling. I appreciate you, Ted, for coming on and yeah, I’ll definitely link everything up to you. Good luck. Anything else I’m sure that you’ll learn of you’ll keep us informed, right?

[00:48:40] TL: Absolutely. Thank you, Scott.

[00:48:42] SV: Okay, no problem. Thanks a lot, Ted.

[00:48:44] TL: It’s been a pleasure.

[00:48:45] SV: Okay, so what do you say? Awesome interview, right? This was awesome to be able to listen to an attorney who’s done this not just once but many times and has helped a lot of Amazon sellers, especially when they thought that they were done. They were going to have to forget about it and stop fighting with Amazon about getting this particular seller off of their listing. Really, really awesome that I was able to have him on and do this interview. I want to thank Ted again. Really, really appreciate it and I do feel like now us- I say us meaning the TAS community- we have an advantage. Now I can reach people like Ted and now I feel like I could literally email Ted and get an answer or an update on something that’s changed and now we can bring that back to our community. It’s really, really awesome to be able to share this with you and I’m really, really excited and I hope that you’ve gotten value from this episode.

One little last reminder here before we head off. Depending on when you came in on this episode maybe you skipped the intro and you went right into the interview. I wanted to remind you if you’re at all interested at attending a live event … This is going to be a live event. Very, very small, under 30 people. We’re going to be doing a full day, one day of hot seat sessions basically breaking through obstacles that you may have. We’re going to do this in the group. Not just me and not just Chris Schaeffer but the entire group, the entire set of attendees will be able to also give feedback and advice. I’m really, really excited about this and I can’t wait to have it. If you’re interested in attending this live event which will be May 1st 2016 and this will be in Denver, Colorado, go over to theamazingseller.com/live and you can get all the details to that special, very intimate event that I’m really, really excited about. Yeah, check that out.

Okay, that is going to wrap this up officially now. I have to let you know one more time, remember I’m here for you and I believe in you but you have to, you have to- come on, say it with me. Say it loud, say it proud- take action. Have an awesome, amazing day and I’ll see you in the next episode.

[END]

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13 comments
  • Hello Scott,

    Thank you very much for this podcast.
    I have a question, how and where can I contact a rouge seller? The only option I found is to contact them as a buyer from their seller page.

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Dean

  • Something I’ve always wanted to know and I don’t think you’ve ever covered… WHY DOES AMAZON ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE?
    Why have they not plugged the hole that these rogue sellers have been using? Is there something in it for Amazon? Can anyone from Amazon answer this question? Most software developers update their software and fix security issues. Why has Amazon not done this?

    • Hey Jason, the whole point of the Amazon marketplace is that ANYONE can sell a product they have. The downside is, it’s supposed to be the same product, it becomes very difficult to have an open marketplace AND plug all of the wholes that crop up as a result. Amazon does have a variety of meausres in place and have ramped up efforts in shutting down accounts and removing people from listings they aren’t selling the correct product on.

  • A couple of thoughts on a great podcast. There are over-seas sellers that hijack listings shipping from China, but now they also send inventory straight to FBA causing a whole new mess, especially if you are co-mingling inventory. I’ve also spoken with Amazon reps that say you may not put anything in your listing regarding “Only ships from US” or “XYZ brand is the only authorized seller” or any of those protective types of statements.

  • I literally just used the ‘friendly letter’ on a hijacker and they replied and removed themselves within 10 minutes of me sending the letter. They also apologized for doing so as their staff did it by mistake.

    Not even halfway through the podcast. I’m doing this while listening. Awesome value!!!

    Thanks for the tip Scott!

  • Contacted Ted today about a hijacking situation and after about a 20 minute discussion of the issue..no charge I might add..he explained to me how it would not be in my interest to proceed further in this case. Great advice, very knowledgeable about Amazon’s processes and I certainly can recommend him!

  • I wonder how many times a seller’s manufacturer creates some extra product and puts your product on your listing. It would be the exact same product, only cheaper. I doubt this happens, but it could.

  • Hi,
    I wonder if they can hijack, if you are FBA so you are shipping from Amazon warehouse, and they are shipping from China. I mean it is obvious their price is much cheaper.

  • Great episode Scott, super valuable. Much better method than I have been using and I may even contact Ted if my attempts fail.

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