Chris McCabe is a former Amazonian who helps Amazon sellers protect and save their businesses. His company, ecommerceChris, was the first company founded by a former Amazonian designed specifically to help suspended marketplace sellers. Chris teaches sellers how to think like Amazon, protect their accounts, and appeal listing restrictions and suspensions. He is also heavily versed in the world of counterfeits on Amazon’s marketplace.
Randy Hetrick is the founder and co-chairman of TRX, one of the world’s leading brands in health and fitness. Prior to TRX, Randy spent 14 years as a Navy SEAL Officer, holding a variety of strategic and tactical leadership positions. His formal entrepreneurial career began in his garage, where he first created the prototype for his famous TRX Suspension Trainer. In addition to his current roles, Randy is also an investor and advisor to early stage businesses and a speaker to organizations around the world, including his alma maters of USC and Stanford.
Rich Goldstein is a US patent attorney who helps Amazon sellers develop strategies to protect their brands and grow their businesses around the topic of IP. Since founding his firm, Goldstein Patent Law, over 25 years ago, Rich has attained more than 2,000 patents for his clients. He is also the author of The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent and host of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- How Randy Hetrick balances the sales opportunities on Amazon with the costs incurred of protecting his brand
- Chris McCabe talks about how Amazon has changed over the last 10 years in terms of protecting the brands on its platform
- Rich Goldstein’s thoughts on the role intellectual property plays in a brand’s efforts to build meaningful assets on Amazon
- How Randy deals with competitors that try to violate his patents and lodge complaints against him for counterfeits
- What can Amazon do to better vet fraudulent sellers and protect legitimate sellers?
- Randy and Rich provide a look into both the Amazon litigation process and the neutral patent evaluation process
- Chris explains what startup brands should do when dealing with false IP claims from competitors
- The importance of IP protection in China and how to stop IP-violating products from entering the US
- What brands need to know about IP protection when selling in different countries
- Why you should be actively looking for counterfeits of your product on Amazon
- How Amazon’s Transparency program and Project Zero help sellers deal with counterfeit products
- The best way to remove knock-offs from Amazon
In this episode…
If you’re a brand selling on Amazon, you’ve probably had to deal with the tough and time-consuming litigation process that occurs because of intellectual property infringement. Many legitimate sellers have experienced a loss of sales and business due to fraudsters on the Amazon marketplace that violate patents and lodge false IP claims. So how can you better prevent and deal with these violations?
According to Amazon consultant Chris McCabe, Amazon seller Randy Hetrick, and patent attorney Rich Goldstein, there are many preventative measures brands can take to protect their listings on and off of Amazon. They believe that it’s never too early to be thinking about IP protection, especially if you are a growing business.
In this webinar by Buy Box Experts, host James Thomson talks with Chris McCabe, Randy Hetrick, and Rich Goldstein about their strategies for fighting back against counterfeit sellers on Amazon. They discuss the many ways brands are affected by patent violations, how IP plays a key role in protecting legitimate sellers, and the best ways to remove knock-offs from the Amazon marketplace. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Buy Box Experts
- Chris McCabe on LinkedIn
- Randy Hetrick on LinkedIn
- Goldstein Patent Law
- Rich Goldstein on LinkedIn
- The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent by Rich Goldstein
- Amazon’s Transparency Program
- Amazon Project Zero
Sponsor for this episode
Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage their clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of their clients’ business fundamentals and their in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.
The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity in the marketplace–not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.
Buy Box Experts prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.
Learn more about Buy Box Experts at BuyBoxExperts.com.
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.
James Thomson 0:18
I’m James Thomson from Buy Box Experts. Thank you for joining us today for the webinar on how to fight back against counterfeit sellers on Amazon. I am joined by three panelists. I will briefly introduce and then we’ll get into our discussion. I have Chris McCabe, who is a former Amazonian who helps sellers with Amazon, protect and save their businesses. Chris’ company, ecommerceChris, was the first company founded by a former Amazonian designed specifically to help suspended marketplace sellers. Chris teaches sellers how to think like Amazon, protects their accounts and appeal listing restrictions and suspensions. Chris is also heavily versed in the world of counterfeits on Amazon and I’m delighted to have Chris join us today.
Today, we’re also joined today by Randy Hetrick, the founder and co-chairman of TRX, one of the world’s leading brands in health and fitness. Prior to TRX, Randy spent 14 years as a commando in the US Navy SEAL’s team with an operational career that culminated as a squadron commander for the SEAL’s elite special missions unit. Randy’s formal entrepreneurial career began in his garage transforming the crude invention of necessity he had created in the field into TRX’s suspension trainer that we all love, know and use today. In addition to his role as co-chairman of TRX, Randy is also an investor and advisor to early stage businesses, and a speaker to organizations around the world including leadership and entrepreneur at his alma maters of USC and Stanford.
We’re also joined today by Rich Goldstein, a US patent attorney who works with Amazon sellers to develop strategies to protect their brands and innovate products as well as grow their businesses around the topic of IP. Since founding his firm, Goldstein Patent Law, more than 25 years ago, Rich has attained more than 2000 patents for his clients. He is the author of The American Bar Association’s Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.
Gentleman, I want to thank you all for joining us today. The topic of counterfeits on Amazon is a very complicated one. Let me start by asking you, Randy, you’ve been selling your brand TRX on Amazon for many years, and you’ve seen firsthand how broadly fraudsters can use this low friction Amazon platform to their advantage. How do you balance the sales opportunity that Amazon presents with the policing costs that you incur as a brand in order to protect your brand on this platform?
Randy Hetrick 2:51
Well, first it’s nice to be with you, James. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’ve been on Amazon. Since really Amazon started selling anything other than books way back in about a week, as I recall. And back then there weren’t the kinds of problems that there are today because I think, you know, it was a brave new world where legitimate operators were trying to figure out how to play in that space, and how to optimize, you know, the merchandising of our products and, and understand Amazon’s rules. The the channel is such a powerhouse, obviously, that it’s almost impossible for a brand these days to, you know, not participate in it, I suppose you could, but you’d be foregoing a pretty massive, you know, marketplace. And the way that I kind of look at it, James at this point, and I’m sure we’ll dig in a little deeper, but it’s, you know, it’s become a piece of business like marketing, right, like hiring accountants, yes. like paying insurance. That might be the best The best metaphor, right who likes paying insurance? Nobody. But if you don’t pay insurance and you have a catastrophic you know outcome of some sort, it is truly catastrophic all the way through the organization and that’s sort of how I view brand protection on Amazon. It’s it’s a an evolving, but critical investment if you want to do business there.
James Thomson 4:21
Thank you, Randy. Chris used to be a seller performance investigator and Amazon dealing firsthand with bad characters and their actions impacts on other sellers. What has changed on Amazon over the last 10 years when it comes to Amazon’s efforts to protect brands?
Chris McCabe 4:39
quite a bit. And thanks for having me today. By the way. I like this topic because every successful brand needs to expect that somebody is going to try to counterfeit their items is as obvious as that sounds. They understand much better now than they did 10 years ago, even five years ago how to kind of game In the system, they understand how these teams operate. Unfortunately, sometimes they even know how some of the tools, the internal team tools work and are used. And they they exploit those loopholes, and they weaponize those to accuse each other of counterfeit. There’s a lot of anti competitive behavior. So that wasn’t, you know, if I go back to 2010, when I was working on this stuff every day, that wasn’t as much of an issue. There were a few bad actors, fraudsters, you know, sometimes they’re really sloppy about how they attacked each other and we could trace it back and discipline the right people. But I mean, the sophistication level of and the awareness of the loopholes, the sophisticated strategies use now. Unfortunately, it’s become something that’s difficult for Amazon itself, to adapt to and cope with.
James Thomson 5:52
When you have so many sellers, so many listings, and so few eyes within Amazon even with Amazon’s own technology. You know this this constant game of cat and mouse. We’ll talk more about this in a few minutes. But it really is hard to keep on top of all of the the approaches that some of these sophisticated fraudsters come up with. And you know, this this really this really does. The problem is only going to get worse as Amazon becomes more and more of a shopping destination for more and more consumers more and more brands. Rich. I started working at Amazon about 13 years ago, and we rarely had discussions about protecting intellectual property. Because Amazon saw itself merely as a sales channel rather than a place where all sorts of characters would congregate to make honest and dishonest opportunities around making money. How do you see intellectual property playing into brands efforts today to building meaningful assets on the Amazon channel?
Rich Goldstein 6:51
Great, great question, James. And thanks for having me here. So first of all, I think that the the path towards how Having effective IP protection having an effective IP asset is similar to the path to succeeding these days on Amazon, which is that you want to focus on differentiation. So, a lot of times people come out with me two products, and meet two products have a lot of challenges these days in terms of fighting against other products and having to spend money on Pay Per Click to, to be able to get sales really so. So essentially, the strategy these days by most successful sellers is to focus on differentiation. And then the way IP plays into that is that you then want to protect the differentiation you want to protect what’s different. So if you’re differentiating based upon a brand, then you want to protect that brand. If you’re differentiating based on product features, you have a feature which truly is unique, then you might be able to patent those features and obtain that asset Which then backs up your competitive advantage on on Amazon.
James Thomson 8:06
So Randy, you you do have patents, you do have all sorts of trademark set up at this point. Talk, talk us through a little bit about how competitors are still able to violate your patents and use Amazon systems to file complaints about you selling counterfeit products of your own. Talk to us a little bit about the kinds of things that you’ve had to deal with, and how you’ve approached this process of trying to protect that IP that you’ve so carefully invested in.
Randy Hetrick 8:36
Yeah, well, we fortunately, you know, one of the early decisions I made which early on was a dubious one to spend all this money, right to to shore up the unique innovative elements of my invention with IP and back in the day, right. design patents, you know, IP Lawyers would dismiss them as as you know, it’s a waste of time because you just work around them. Right? And that was true enough in the old world, but in the New World, right? It turns out to be the one thing that most of the online platforms, including Amazon will enforce because it’s easier to enforce, you know, design patents, like a picture, more like a picture and less like an intricate, intricate, mechanical engineers schematic, and then with that overland a bunch of legal language that has to be interpreted. So Amazon’s taken the position in the past that hey, we’re not a court. We don’t have I mean, I’m one of the only fools that you’ll probably ever meet who has litigated all the way to the mat, maybe not the worst. But But you know, very few people go all the way through litigation with intellectual property, generally it settles and I know why, because the one you know, utility patent and trademark case that we pursued to the mat to Three years in about two and a half million bucks. And that is just not something that most brands can, you know, can endure. And so the bad guys prey on two things. One they prey on what really began to James, to your point. Amazon created this unbelievable, frictionless marketplace, right. And I think if Amazon’s to be, you know, indicted for one thing, it’s probably the naivete of not having realized that there’s a there’s a bad element of human nature that’s gonna take a frictionless environment and try to bend it to their will. So you know that that’s the reality and and the challenges are twofold. One, the expense, right of getting and prosecuting intellectual property. That’s one of the things the bad guys prey on. They know that most, most vendors just can’t afford what I just described. And too, they know that Amazon is a much bigger jungle than is actually populated with humans. In other words, it is a it is a technology based jungle that you know, the humans who can exercise judgment are few and far between in the jungle relative to the number of vendors, you know, the number of basins and all of the technology so they prey on that. And the challenge really is that you even with great intellectual property and we’ve built a a multi layered cake of protections, you know, starting with trademarks, going through utility patents, design patents, trade dress, and copyrights. But the bad guys don’t care. They just copy you know, they keep changing the the data that allows Amazon to identify them and they keep opening new stores. And so what they do is it’s a war of attrition. Right, and we can get into, you know, some of the ways that we’ve more or less successfully battled, you know, that war as we as we go on with our conversation.
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