Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

Trademark protection: A cautionary tale from Apple

For breadth of offered products, ease of transaction and up-to-date customer feedback, Amazon provides an e-commerce experience that is tough to beat. According to Forbes, Amazon's popular subscription service and speedy delivery are two additional reasons why it has outperformed traditional retailers. Within the past year, the company was rewarded for its service with $82.8 billion in online sales, outpacing its closest competitor by more than $60 billion.

Counterfeit items sully vendor reputations

Unfortunately, included within this revenue stream is money brought in through the sale of counterfeit items on the website. Many vendors have had their reputations sullied by counterfeiters who copy their wares and sell shoddy goods to customers.

In many cases, the phony goods are virtually indistinguishable from the legitimate wares, as the counterfeiters copy packaging, the product itself and the Standard Identification Number Amazon assigns to vendors. It isn't until the items purchased fall apart or light on fire that purchasers air their grievances through negative reviews on Amazon's website.

Fake Apple items lead to lawsuit

Both incidents have been connected to products sold on Amazon by a third party, claiming to offer legitimate accessories for Apple. On October 17, Apple filed suit against Mobile Star LLC for marketing fake power adapters and charging cables branded with the company's logo. In its suit, Apple claims that the phony components did not meet industry standards and were poorly manufactured. The subpar construction was revealed when the products caught on fire. Online reviews confirmed incidents of this type.

Who is responsible for pursuing counterfeiters?

Amazon receives over 40 percent of its sales revenue from third-party vendors, and it has been reticent to aggressively root out vendors accused of counterfeiting goods. This means that companies seeking to protect the reputation of their brands are responsible for bringing wrong-doers to justice. That the transactions occur via the internet makes this task virtually impossible because counterfeiters are difficult to identify and bring to court.

The takeaway for you

The takeaway from Apple's Amazon experience is this: if you are concerned about maintaining brand loyalty for your trademarked goods, make it a priority to review Amazon's marketplace for goods bearing a likeness to yours. If your company sells items on Amazon, pay attention to customer reviews posted and sales numbers. Should both of these indicators head into negative territory, there is a chance that another company is counterfeiting your product, undercutting you on price and undermining customer loyalty with its cheap wares.

Protect yourself

A knowledgeable trademark protection attorney from the law firm of Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C., can create a strategy to help you counter the counterfeiters and strengthen your brand.

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