Amazon and IP disputes is big enough to run its own streamlined IP dispute system. It resolves most trademark disputes with its Amazon Brand registry and most patent disputes with its Amazon Patent Evaluation Express. markets products from millions of manufacturers and vendors, resulting in many IP (trademark, copyright, and patent) disputes.

Unfortunately, the US court system is designed to administer slow, careful (and thus expensive) justice to a small number of IP litigants. It can’t scale to Amazon volumes. So Amazon decided to make its own IP dispute process. This includes the Amazon Brand Registry and the Amazon Patent Evaluation Express. Amazon handles trademarks via the standard DMCA process.

Trademarks: (using the Amazon Brand Registry)

The Amazon Band Registry offers several methods to help trademark owners protect their rights and promote their products. However, at least for the US, just any trademark won’t work. The Amazon Brand Registry is only available for pending or issued USPTO trademarks on the principal register. USPTO supplemental registry trademarks are out of luck.

The USPTO supplemental register is where otherwise OK, but “descriptive” trademarks are put to “age” for five years until the mark is considered to have “acquired distinctiveness.” So, the moral is that if you plan to sell on Amazon, it is good to avoid the supplemental register. This can be done by registering a less descriptive product name.  There are trade-offs here, however, since descriptive names help customers understand the purpose of new products.

Copyrights: (using the DMCA)

Be careful about the text and images that you upload. It should be your own material or material you have clear rights to (e.g., license, resale of previously purchased physical items). Amazon operates a standard Digital Millennium Copyright (DMCA) infringement reporting system that you (and others) can use to report issues. If you hold copyrights that you feel are important, consider registering them with the US copyright office, as this can make enforcement easier. Note, however, that under their terms of service, Amazon acquires a license to use your uploaded material.

Patents: (using the Amazon Patent Evaluation Express)

Amazon also has a streamlined patent dispute program called the Amazon Patent Evaluation Express (APEX).  The process is fast and (for patent law) inexpensive. The plaintiff provides the US patent number and the Amazon listing of the allegedly infringing product. Both parties can argue this (e.g., one submits written arguments for infringement, and the other submits written arguments in defense).  Both can pay $4,000 to submit their arguments to an Amazon-selected neutral patent evaluator. The neutral evaluator evaluates the patent and product in question.

The winner gets their $4,000 fee back. The loser loses its fee. If the allegedly infringing product loses, Amazon will take down the listing. The neutral evaluator’s decisions are final, but you can still go to the court system.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Amazon. Amazon’s IP policy can change at any time. However, Amazon is enough of an 800-pound-gorilla that its IP policies impact the IP ecosystem.