If your business is successful at selling products on eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon, it’s very likely that criminals will discover your products and will manufacture counterfeits to make money off your hard-earned success. To protect your brand against amazon trademark infringement, you need powerful identification and enforcement tools. For example, a “test buy” is the first step you take to battle Amazon counterfeit operations and protect your brand on Amazon. The best defense is transparency. To remove counterfeit sellers from your eCommerce platforms, and pursue legal claims against rogue sellers, conduct a test purchase or “test buy” of the suspected counterfeit products. A “test buy” involves purchasing an item from a seller that you believe is unauthorized or selling counterfeits. When you have hard evidence of counterfeit sales of your product, you have grounds to bring a complaint to Amazon and have them remove the infringing sellers from your Amazon listings.
In addition to contributing to Amazon fraud reporting, there are a few other reasons why conducting a test buy can help your brand protection efforts:
Gather Evidence of Counterfeits. When you purchase the product, you can examine it closely and confirm that the product is counterfeit and not manufactured by you or by any of your authorized distributors or manufacturers.
Gather Seller Information. A test purchase enables you to learn important information about the seller. When you receive the counterfeit product, you will also gain knowledge about the seller’s business name and the seller’s shipping address. This information can help you locate those who run the counterfeit operation. Be careful to take note of the seller’s fulfillment process. Are they a 3P (third-party) seller performing all their own sales, fulfillment, and shipping? That is an important factor to note when making the test buy. Sellers using FBA (or fulfillment by amazon) will have their products delivered to you via the closest Amazon distribution center. That impacts the type of actual seller data you can collect and identify.
Drowning in Sellers? For many brands, especially mass-market retailers of consumer products, distinguishing between sellers that infringe or pose a risk from authorized merchants can be very difficult. When focused on product diversion and anti-counterfeiting, test buys can represent a sizable cost, so using them wisely is important. In addition to IP assets being used, look at negative seller reviews, shipping duration and costs, longevity on the platform, their inventory (if you can get it) and certainly if they are a consistent Buy Box winner or not. Regular Buy Box winners are filling orders (conceivably) and should have inventory. To ensure the product is sent by the suspect seller, take note on platforms like Amazon and ensure you are buying from a true 3rd-party seller, not a seller using FBA or other fulfillment services.
Find “Gray Market” Sellers. If the product you have purchased, however, is authentic then you know that the problem is not counterfeit production but rather sales by an unauthorized seller – sometimes referred to as “gray market.” By purchasing the product, you gain evidence that the seller is unauthorized and can use this information to file a complaint with the eCommerce platform or even trace the product back to a particular distributor to inquire who they are selling your products to.
Did you know with IPSecure’s platform you can perform completely anonymous test buys with a few clicks of your mouse? Sign up free: ipsecure.com/request-beta
Making a Test Buy. To make a test buy on Amazon, first create a general shopping account to place the order. You don’t want to use your business account because then 3rd-party sellers may be able to identify you as the buyer trying to make a test buy. When you place your test buy order, Amazon will email you an order number. Keep records of that email and the order number because this information will be used in your complaint or infringement report. Also, be sure to keep records of the ASIN/ISBN and the seller’s store name and seller ID on Amazon.
Next, when you receive the product at your address (again, do not have the product shipped to your business address), Amazon will send you an email confirming delivery of the product. Amazon’s delivery confirmation email should also be kept as it is a record that you received the product.
Make sure you take photos of the counterfeit product, its packaging, the shipping label, return address, and any other materials that come with your order. All this information can be included in your complaint.
After you gather all your evidence, you can submit your complaint through Amazon’s Seller Performance portal or if you have a trademark and have been approved, Amazon Brand Registry. If your company sells on Amazon and you have a Seller Central account, log into your Seller Central account, go to the contact page, click “Other Issues,” and then “Report a Violation.” The reason for the violation is that the item is “Not as Described.” From there, it can take a couple of days for Amazon to remove the listing. If you’re an IP owner, we suggest using Amazon Brand Registry.
Not every seller on every platform that you detect requires you to do a test buy. Some sellers are obviously selling fakes and you can gather enough evidence without doing an actual test purchase. But, in many cases, particularly with gray market sellers, it's important to have concluded a test buy.
Finally, although you might be tempted, do not write a review on the test purchase. It’s a violation of Amazon’s terms to write reviews about products you have a financial interest in, even if your interest is in removing the counterfeit listing.