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Hi Cliff, I'm an independent amazon consultant.

Your Amazon problems would be solved with a regular USPTO trademark. They don't recognize common-law trademarks because they are heavily arguable in litigation.

USPTO is a database of trademarks already scrutinized by trademark attorneys and government. It's not perfect, but it is a collection that Amazon recognizes.

You can do this for $2000-ish and never think about it again.

then GS1.org for barcodes

Now you can sell your bottles in museum gift-shops!

It's a shame that a small-time reseller like Cliff has to go to the trouble and expense to register a trademark to protect his listing (which I doubt Cliff will bother with).

Until about 5-6 years ago the changes Amazon made almost universally made their service better and more pro-user convenience/efficiency. Since then it's really become a nightmare. I realize they are being abused by scammers who are scheming every way to subvert the system but as a technologist familiar with web tech and distribution, it's clear there are some anti-consumer experience issues which Amazon could fix but is choosing not to.

For example, allowing vendors to list alternate "versions" which aren't really the same product at all. It makes it harder to tell what the star rating averages are for the version I actually want (and I have to sort reviews by version which is only accessible on a subpage. Frankly, I'd rather they just go back to one listing per product. Yes it's less useful for a hundred different sized machine screws but it seems like a major source of these issues.

Then there's the nightmare of letting different sellers sell on the "same" product listing. Crap clone products flit in and out contaminating the integrity of reviews because a shoddy version slips in but only from one seller out of six or seven.

As someone who deals with them everyday, do you think they are NOT doing some of the things they could to stop these issues due to strong incentives (Amazon makes more $$$ allowing users to be frustrated), or do you think they are sincerely doing what they can (within reasonable costs) to solve these chronic issues? They used to understand that accuracy and transparency ultimately yield more sales (even if lower for an individual product). I'd like to believe Amazon didn't change their ethos from the early days, but...

Amazon is filled to the brim with predominantly Chinese scammers that they have shown no interest in stopping. Scams I've seen:

- 2 pack scammers that sell someone else's product as a bundle, but it costs more to buy the 2 pack than it does to buy the real item twice.

- Listing swaps, where someone will take a commodity listing with lots of reviews and change the listing to sell overpriced broken garbage

- Counterfeiting or extreme product cheapening after a listing receives recommended status

- A mountain of fake review schemes now including this.

These bad actors don't contribute to the Amazon market. There's little reason not to ban them for ToS violations.

> These bad actors don't contribute to the Amazon market. There's little reason not to ban them for ToS violations.

These bad actors are optimizing for sales, and Amazon benefits from each sale on their marketplace. Their actions result in more money for the bad actors and for Amazon alike.

It's a similar situation to VC-funded social media platforms turning a blind eye to bots and automation early on because bot activity increases growth and engagement metrics, both of which in turn can increase the platform's valuation in future funding rounds or an IPO.

That's gotta be a very short term thing though hasn't it? Honestly Amazon is two, maybe three, knockoffs away from me never using them again (currently: 0). I can't be arsed with faff.. that's why I use Amazon.

It'd be daft for them to not be curbing this!

I believe that they assume they've bought enough goodwill from segments of consumers that things like this don't really matter.

My older relatives generally assume that Amazon will have the best prices online for everything despite that not being the case for 5+ years now.

They're counting on customers like my relatives and yourself not changing their assumptions or habits.

Funny you mention the 2-pack scammers. I was literally just looking for a center-post mounted bike seat for a child yesterday and noticed that exact scam. I thought to myself, "why would someone want a two pack of these bike seats?" Lo and behold the actual product cost less than half as much as the two pack. I didn't realize what was going on, just thought, "this doesn't seem legit" and bought a totally different item. Poor bike-seat manufacturer.

Sure, that sounds good, banning scammers. But then important metrics would not go up and to the right. Metrics executives see! You can't just run around prioritizing the customer experience willy-nilly. Who knows what that would lead to?!? /s

When you scroll tho y the end of the reviews they have a link that says something like show reviews from other countries. If the reviews for different versions worked this way it might cut down on some of the version scamming.

Making the step from a hobby to a business means having to make the necessary investments, some of which may be costly and a pain in the ass, to protect one's intellectual property.

I think it's ironic that you're saying he has to pay to run his business safely, when Amazon's set things up this way specifically because they don't want to pay to run their business safely.

It's a little outrageous that a 3rd party can come take over your storefront without any avenue to challenge.

It’s not “your storefront”. Your listing is only there at Amazon’s discretion and subject to whatever arbitrary and capricious and erratically enforced rules they choose to make up. That’s the deal you accept if you choose to make Amazon (or AliExpress or Facebook or whoever) a critical part of your business.

There is nothing wrong with Cliff's store front: https://www.kleinbottle.com

The problem is in Amazon's storefront, and there millions of sellers are operating in the same space, so doing some due diligence is required. If Cliff could just seize ownership of his storefront from a thief, why couldn't a thief seize it from Cliff? The solution is to register a proper trademark.

Like it or not, the world is messy, and it costs to keep it clean. Registering a trademark is like buying locks for your home and vehicle, and buying soap to wash your clothes, and changing the oils in your machines.

This logic assumes that it's cheap to get a trademark, whereas the parent says it'll cost $2000.

This leaves small hobby stores like Cliff's with no practical defense against scams like this if they've only made a few thousand in profits through amazon sales, especially if they don't have that cash on hand (and suddenly lose their amazon revenue stream!)

Like it's easy to say "well you should have trademarked your product" after the fact, but very few people have even heard of this scam when it happens to them.

It's interesting that you say "some due diligence is required" and go on to put the burden of that diligence on Cliff, rather than the creator of the marketplace.

It should be pointed out that in a country like India or China it IS often the marketplaces legal responsibility to prevent counterfeit merchandise from being sold in their market. If you go into many malls for example there are signs up on the walls with a hotline to report people selling counterfeit merchandise. In India, they have a service you can contact that enforces returns/refunds of any counterfeit item that you purchase from a vendor (though usually mentioning the hotline and threatening to call it is more than enough to convince the vendor to give you a refund).

The solution is for Amazon to be less horrid.

There really are no polite words to describe business practices.

Stop buying from Amazon. Quite easy actually.

Exactly, stop buying from Amazon.

There a software company running a software market, all the power is in there hands, and they choose to do nothing.

Why should anyone be able to seize anyone else's Amazon listing without thorough human review by an Amazon employee? This seems like it would be a non-issue on a sane platform.

Except selling Klein bottles is a hobby, his actual business is teaching.

Oh yes, Speeder.

Thank you!


I'm not sure why the parent was downvoted. The trademark scheme was built to make marketplaces more efficient, by giving producers a carve out in the conversation--a word or phrase or logo--so that they and consumers and distributors can engage together confidently with some bright line rules to work with.

The alternative is anarchy, and much more expensive then filing for a trademark if you want to sell in the marketplace. Like insurance, everyone that wants to be in the market pays a little, so that it makes it easier to avoid something like this.

While this would probably work, it seems insane to me that this would be the only thing to protect his listing from a completely different category of product being merged with another.

You're not wrong.

Because Amazon's system is insane unless you realize it's designed only for the benefit of the corporation, not for any kind of fairness or quality.

The success of Amazon retail is in part because of the ~feature~ of seamless, rampant IP infringement and zero legal or financial liability on the part of Amazon for making money off it.

Which has gotten worse over time, and one of the several reasons why my Prime membership will not renew this year.

Has there been a study on the volume of counterfeit goods flowing through amazon's marketplace?

Seems likely they are now the #1 seller of counterfeit goods globally, by a decent margin.

I’ll bet a six pack of decent beer the % of all sales that are counterfeit goods is double digits.

What's unfortunate is that ideally fairness & quality should be in the interests of the marketplace.

...or the fact that the only way to get this information is a HN comment from an independent Amazon consultant.

Let's say that Acme is a low-down, dirty-rotten, rip-off con who has been usurping somebody else's trademark to make a quick buck with counterfeit merchandise.

Why would Amazon merge the reviews of that product with the reviews of the authentic, high-quality, reputable Chinese vendor's actual product?

Why does Amazon allow a "color" to point to a product from a completely different seller? Why does Amazon allow product aliases at all?

Thanks, Blair. I've spent an afternoon pawing through the USPTO trademark & their TESS system. To self-register a trademark with already-listed goods (eg, a T-Shirt or a clock) costs about USD$350. The cost bumps up for every class of goods your trademark covers (say, your trademark covers T-Shirts and Clocks). And oddball, unlisted items (Klein bottles) cost noticeably more.

I have felt for awhile that fees for Trademarks, and Patents should be tied to 1040 income level.

A wealthy corporation (person) should pay more than the poor, or little enterprise.

I looked into a patent a few years ago, and couldn't justify even the fee at the time. When I had disposable income I was ready to patent, but I was too late. A corporation with over 60 patents beat me to it.

That shouldn’t be required. Amazon should verify the seller. Scam sellers sell knockoff trademarked items everyday on Amazon. Trademark won’t fix anything.

It's kind of sad if the only way to stop having your item listing in Amazon from being hijacked is to trademark.

Do Amazon care about jurisdiction, UK registration is ~£200, perhaps any registered trademark will get you recognised by Amazon [in all jurisdictions]?

If someone is squatting one's trademark you can still sue them with an unregistered mark, and perhaps crucially if they're using Amazon then Amazon should be up for contributory infringement.

This is not legal advice and represents my personal views only.

I was thinking similarly, what about state trademarks? I've got a Massachusetts trademark because it was quick and easy, and cost only $50. My lawyer advised me that, while not as iron clad as a federal trademark, it would tend to discourage anybody else from filing federally on the mark because they'd do a search and mine would turn up and they'd rather pick a different mark than be limited in one state. I don't sell product on Amazon though, so I don't know if it would work in that instance.

I can save him the money…it would be highly unlikely the USPTO would grant a TM for “ACME Klein Bottle”.

In either case, or even in the case the was a seller legitimately infringing on a valid trademark, Amazon should not be reassigning reviews from one sellers product to another seller under these types of matters. How in the hell would that be beneficial to Amazon shoppers?

Indeed, "Klein bottle" is not descriptive of the origin, it's descriptive of the type of goods. Trademarks indicate origin and must do so distinctively to be registered.

This post is my own view, not legal advice, and unrelated to my employment.

And “ACME” is very likely already registered in any desired class for the particular good.

It also creates bigger questions about Amazon’s brand/trademark practices vis-a-vis forum selection where registration fees and criteria are minimal and rights are liberal.

Assuming it was successfully filed, actually returning the marketplace/reviews to OP would actually be more troubling…in other words Amazon would be willing to take the marketplace/reviews from a legitimate Trademark holder with an earlier filing date and give it to a legitimate Trademark holder with a later in time filing date from another jurisdiction.

Disclosure: I’m a lawyer and have actually represented a client that registered trademark A, sole the product on Amazon, then Amazon began selling a competing product with a similar (not identical spelling but pronounced the same) name they successfully trademarked B, ironically the USPTO rejected our clients trademark for C on the basis it was “to similar to B” whereas the USPTO never found B was similar to A. The difference between A and C being addition of a logo to the word mark.

> Amazon began selling a competing product with a similar (not identical spelling but pronounced the same) name they successfully trademarked B

Trademarks are published for opposition for this reason, right? Client could have filed an opposition against the confusingly similar mark during the opposition period and it never would have ended up in that situation with trademark C. Monitoring trademarks posted to the Official Gazette is an extra burden but important if your brand is valuable.

> USPTO is a database of trademarks

No the United States Patent and Trademark Office is not a database of trademarks.

It has one, though.

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