Amazon’s sales boom over the pandemic has created many delays at the USPTO as new online businesses file trademark applications in hopes of protecting themselves against knockoff products.
Forbes spoke with Josh Gerben about how the influx of filings is affecting the USPTO and how Amazon is trying to help small businesses fight counterfeiting.
“To say there’s sand in the gears at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a bit of an understatement,” said Josh Gerben, founding partner of Gerben Perrott, PLLC, which has filed over 10,000 trademarks since 2008, many for Amazon sellers. “We’ve never had delays like this … and it’s gotten a heck of a lot worse lately.”
This increase in filings point to businesses jumping in on the pandemic-driven e-commerce boom. Amazon, the country’s largest online retailer, has seen its marketplace nearly double in the last two years. Third-party sellers, mostly comprised of small- and medium-size business, now account for a record 56% of unit sales on Amazon.
Many of the sellers are based in China, which saw a significant increase in trademark filings from the country. Many have names that look like they were created by a password generator, such as QPNGRP, HWYDTGS and BULAXXOOO, making them hard to pronounce but easy to fast-track for trademark approval, since they are unlikely to be mistaken for other brands. Once on Amazon, these companies try to get positive reviews and search rankings, increasing the ability of shoppers to choose its products.
While it’s unlikely that these brands will try to sell counterfeit products in their online stores, counterfeiting has been an issue for many Amazon sellers, prompting the company to step up efforts to fight it on their site. One such effort was a brand registry program, which gives sellers control over their product listing pages, including the ability to block sales of unauthorized versions of the products. To join the program, sellers must provide proof that they filed a trademark application.
The brand registry program also unlocks various benefits, giving sellers more powerful tools around marketing and analytics. “You get all sorts of superpowers,” Gerben said.
Source: Debter, Lauren. https://www.forbes.com. “Amazon’s Pandemic Boom is Fueling Record Backlogs At The U.S. Trademark Office.” 11 March 2022.