Idea

newuser-968ec2b7-2b2f-458c-8a02-1771408fdd46 avatar image

Amazon to Trademark Profitable Phrases

An apparently growing phenomena is people trademarking profitable tee-shirt ‘phrases’ (terms which probably shouldn’t be trademarkable), thus causing problems for all those that had previously placed MBA tee-shirts using those memes – AND stifling further creativity.

What if Amazon flagged very popular/profitable memes using its extensive sales data – and trademarked such memes (where possible) itself? Then Amazon could give free range to any MBA designers to use those memes on its platform (but not other platforms)?

Win-win for MBA and MBA Tee Designers.

merch by amazon
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Cuff Nozama Jr. avatar image
Cuff Nozama Jr. commented

That would explain why many good selling shirts were removed due to the generic "content" violation.

The omnipotent review team pehaps will go into more detail as to why shirts are being removed.

Realistically. I don't believe they have the time, or the inclination to answer individual e-mails.

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rightbrainwoman avatar image
rightbrainwoman commented

Trademark is a tricky subject. Some phrases can (and do) have numerous trademark owners. According to an article in Slate, "A trademark does not mean, however, that no one else can use your word, phrase, or symbol in connection with any and all goods and services. It means only that somebody else can't use a similar trademark with similar goods or services."

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Correct. I own a trademark on my brand. I actually own 2. (for 2 different product types) If someone wants to use my brand name on something outside the scope of those 2 product types, there is NOTHING I can do about it. For those who don't understand, it's simple.

McDonald's owns the trademark on their name. No similar food joint can go and name themselves McDonald's. But, if you want to open up a "McDonald's" clothing, tire shop, thrift store, etc... McDonald's cannot stop you.

And trademarks were NOT MEANT to cover t-shirt phrases. How it has gotten to this level is beyond me and at some point someone is going to put a stop to it. Trademarks are meant to IDENTIFY BUSINESSES. So, a business name, or SLOGAN, etc... (think "McDonald's" and "I'm Lovin' It" ...Your business cannot have 200 slogans, you'd have one. And maybe over time you'd adopt another, etc... Over the course of MANY years, maybe you'd have 10 or so that you've used. But, it IS NOT MEANT for you to file every t-shirt slogan as a trademark. Designs are supposed to be covered under copyrights, but a bunch of morons began filing them as trademarks. This practice will be stopped and the most likely scenario is that those people will be out a lot of money and have invalid trademarks. I look forward to the day when the USPTO cleans up their act.

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nicely put Kirsti

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oops, I mean Kristi

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newuser-8022f902-c436-432d-92d3-c81aa3a88d9d avatar image
newuser-8022f902-c436-432d-92d3-c81aa3a88d9d commented

To build off of what rightbrain said. Trademarking is different from copyrighting and there is a lot of confusion and misinformation going on in the Merch community right now. A Copyright is something that occurs the moment you create an original work in a tangible medium. You own the copyright to that unique creation from the simple fact that you created it. Now in order to prove that it is your copyright you can go through the filing process to put it on record that you are indeed the originator of that created work. Trademarks on the other hand have to be well established identifiers for a particular brand or product. Trademarking is ongoing and has to be established over time and maintained. A person has to be able to show that they have connected their brand to the specific phrase, word, color etc. . . And that their brand is uniquely recognize by that particular Trademark. This has to be shown in commerce. A company must then actively use the Trademark in order to continue the validation of its unique connection to their product/brand. Also it has to be shown that if they are claiming sole ownership of a particular Trademark then they must be able to established the timeline of its use in commerce. So if a particular phrase has been used on one of your Merch shirts for the last year and suddenly someone decides that it would make a good Trademark they would not be able to just file the paperwork and suddenly disallow you from selling that phrase or word. You have just as much claim to that Trademark if not more since you have been using it longer. This is where Amazon seems to be confusing copyright and Trademark and honoring claims that should not be honored. A person can't just claim Trademark on a whim. It is a process that must be established over time in commerce. I forgot to address your paranoia of Amazon stealing all the best phrases. Amazon wouldn't be able to make Trademark claims on shirts you have been selling under your brand but even more relevant is that I don't think Amazon is the mischievous company that some of you seem to suspect. Content creators or sellers wouldn't stick around if Amazon was really conducting such malicious activities. It's silly paranoia and it's a useless idea.

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Yes, exactly, the main issue here is not people applying for Trademarks on particular phrases etc. (although USPTO need some serious improvements over allowing items to be Trademarked that in theory under the law should not be!) but instead the issue is that Amazon seem to be allowing Trademark owners to subsequently request existing designs using those phrases be removed from MBA when in fact US Trademark law specifically attaches 'prior user' protection status for locations and goods that they had been using that now trademarked item prior to the application or approval of the that Trademark - unfortunately I don't see Amazon changing their dodgy approach in this area unless there are any Merch sellers with serious clout who challenge them on it, certainly my own levals of legal advice are financially restricted to my modest income :(

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Amazon isn't going to get into the business of deciding whether or not a trademark is valid. They aren't going to expend any extra time on this issue. If they get a complaint from someone who has filed a trademark, they are going to pull it and move on. They aren't making a TON of money off of any one design and it's far easier (and less time consuming) for them to just do as requested and continue making money on everything that isn't pulled. If you have an issue with how the trademark system works, complain to the USPTO. They are to blame for the ridiculous filings. (though most will be denied down the road and the idiots who filed will be out money because there are NO REFUNDS) But, I wouldn't expect Amazon (or any other company for that matter - just look around at other PoD's, not one of them fights ridiculous trademark claims) to get involved in fighting trademarks for things they are not personally involved in. That's on us.

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Some fair points for sure, however Amazon has within their own data the date that any particular listing was created on MBA for a design, and everyone has access to when a Trademark was filed/approved, so it would be virtually no work for them to instead of simply pulling designs to take that into account and if the listing existed prior to the Trademark to forward any complaint or C&D to the MBA sellers for them to be able to dispute with the Trademark complainant the validity of their claim of infringement...instead of the current Amazon process of simply deleting the listing and providing literally zero information whatsoever to sellers about any complainants and making no provision whatsoever for potential future reinstatement of the listings, along with their sales and review history, should a seller subsequently be able to provide proof that they have successfully countered the complaint - I don't think anyone would seriously expect Amazon to get actually involved in any disputing of a complaint, but currently they basically treat the seller and the listing as a disease to be cut out rather than a potentially innocent partner to whom they could make the whole process infinitely easier to deal with and swallow with very little in the way of time and effort from Amazon.

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