Amazon is dedicated to providing customers with the widest selection of goods on earth and to creating an amazing customer experience. Amazon does not allow listings that violate the intellectual property rights of brands or other rights owners.
This page provides information about intellectual property (IP) rights and common IP concerns that might arise when selling on Amazon. This is not legal advice. You should consult a lawyer if you have a specific question about your IP rights or the IP rights of others.
- What is a copyright?
A copyright protects original works of authorship, such as videos, films, songs, books, musicals, video games, paintings, technology-based works (such as computer programs), etc. Generally, copyright law is meant to incentivise the creation of original works of authorship for the benefit of the public. To receive copyright protection, a work of authorship must be created by an author, and must have some amount of creativity. If you are the author of an original work, then you typically own the copyright in that work.
Protection usually arises at the moment of creation of a work, without a need for a registration, certification or other formal act.
In some European countries, there are optional registration systems available to creators (e.g. Registro General de la Propiedad Intellectual in Spain; SIAE in Italy), but they only have an evidential or administrative function.
In Europe, each country has its own copyright laws, but all copyright laws prohibit the unauthorised copying and use of original works, as well as the unauthorised import of products from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
- How do I know if I own the copyright for one or more of the images I am using on the detail page?
A person who authors an original work usually owns the copyright for that work . If you take a photo of your product, you generally have copyright protection in the photo you took, and you can use that photo on your product detail page to sell that product. However, if you find a photo on someone else’s website, you should not upload that photo to a product detail page without the other person’s permission.
Example: The owner of the Pinzon brand took the photos of the sheets shown below and owns the copyright in the images of the sheets. If a seller were to copy these images to sell their product on another product detail page, that seller could be violating the rights owner’s copyright in the images of the sheets.
Note: When you add your copyrighted image to a product detail page, you grant Amazon and its affiliates a licence to use the material. Other sellers can list their items for sale on pages to which you have added your copyrighted images, even if you no longer sell that product. To ensure that you are not violating someone’s copyrights, make sure that you only upload images or text that you have created yourself or for which you have the copyright holder’s permission to upload.
- How do I know if I own the copyright for the product I am selling?
It is important to make sure that the goods you are selling do not violate a copyright or you could lose your selling privileges and face potential legal consequences.
You might be able to sell someone else’s copyrighted work on Amazon if you have received permission from the copyright owner or if your use is protected by the so-called exhaustion principle. The exhaustion principle generally permits the resale of a genuine, lawfully purchased physical item (such as a book or CD) without permission from the copyright owner. But in Europe, the principle only applies if the concrete product (item) in question was imported or sold previously in the EEA with the copyright owner’s consent, i.e. by the owner or by someone they authorised to sell.Example: If you decide to sell a used copy of someone else’s book on Amazon, you are selling someone else’s copyrighted work. If you bought the book from the publisher in the EEA, or from an authorised distributor of the publisher in the EEA, you are usually protected by the exhaustion principle. But if you bought the book outside the EEA, you are probably infringing copyright by reselling it in the EEA.
- Can industrial designs also receive copyright protection?
In some EU Member States (e.g. France, Germany, Belgium, Italy), the dual nature of industrial designs as functional and aesthetic creations means that they are also protected by copyright. There are different requirements – some countries only protect designs with a high “artistic character” under copyright, in other countries the threshold is low. So be aware that any product design may also be protected by copyright, at least in some EU countries, and therefore may not be copied freely.
Copyright and Design Right protection can coexist.
- What is a trademark?
A trademark is a word, symbol or design, or a combination of same (such as a brand name or logo) that a company uses to identify its goods or services and to distinguish them from other companies’ goods and services. To put it another way, a trademark indicates the source of goods or services. Generally, trademark laws exist to prevent customer confusion about the source of goods or services.
Example: “Amazon” is a trademark that we use for many of our goods and services. Other Amazon trademarks contain both pictures and words, such as the “Available at Amazon” trademark.
A trademark owner usually protects a trademark by registering it with a country-specific trademark office (e.g. DPMA in Germany; UIBM in Italy; INPIin France; OEPM in Spain; UKIPO in the United Kingdom), or with a cross-border office, such as the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the BOIP (for the Benelux region). Trademark protection is territorial by nature, i.e. the geographic scope of protection for trademarks is limited and depends on the place of registration: national trademarks do not protect the trademark owner at EU level, while EU trademarks give protection in all Member States of the Union.
In some cases and countries (not for example in the UK), a person or company might have trademark rights based only on the use of a mark in commerce, even though the mark was never registered. Those rights are known as unregistered trademarks and come into existence only under very limited conditions.
- What do trademarks protect?
Generally, trademark law protects sellers of goods and services from the misappropriation of their trademarks by unauthorised third parties, in particular where there is potential customer confusion about who provides, endorses or is affiliated with such particular goods or services.
A trademark owner may stop others from using a particular mark (a) for goods or services which are identical to those for which the owner has registered his mark; (b) for goods or services that are similar to that of the registered mark if it is likely that customers may be confused (even if the mark used is not identical but only similar); or (c) if the owner’s mark has reputation in the EU and where use of that same or a similar mark without due cause takes unfair advantage of, or is detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the owner’s mark.
- What types of trademarks are displayed on Amazon?
Trademarks are often displayed on Amazon’s product detail pages in the form of product and brand names listed on a product detail page. For example, the trademark “Pinzon” appears in the brand name or “byline” portion of the product detail page shown below. The “Pinzon” trademark also appears in the product name portion of the product detail page (“Pinzon Flannel Sheet Set – King, Sage”).
The European Union Intellectual property Office offers resources to learn more about trademarks.
- Do I always need the rights owner’s permission to use a trademark?
Just because you are not the owner of a trademark, it does not necessarily mean that you cannot sell the rights owner’s product. If the product is genuine, and not a parallel import, you can use the trademark to market that specific product.
Example: If you are selling a genuine Pinzon sheet set and you are advertising the product as a Pinzon sheet set, you are not infringing on the Pinzon trademark.
However, note that the rights owner can prohibit the use of the mark if legitimate reasons exist to oppose further commercialisation of the goods, especially where the condition of the goods is changed or impaired after they have been put on the market.
Almost all other unauthorised uses of a trademark constitute an infringement; if you are unsure whether your use violates someone else’s trademark, you should consult a lawyer before listing on Amazon.
- As a seller, when can I use someone else’s trademark?
Typically, a seller can use someone else’s trademark in the following circumstances:
- When selling authentic goods, a seller may use a trademarked name to list those goods. For example, a seller who lists an authentic “Pinzon” product is not necessarily infringing upon the owner of the Pinzon trademark because the seller is using the trademark to identify an authentic product.
- When using a trademarked word in its ordinary dictionary meaning.
- When making truthful statements that a product is compatible with a trademarked product. For example, if a seller offers a speciality cable that is compatible with the Kindle E-reader, and states that the cable is “compatible with Kindle”, this is generally not trademark infringement as long as the statement is true, not confusing. Please note, however, that “similar to” claims (such as stating that goods are “similar to Kindle” or “better than Kindle”) are trademark infringements .
- How can I make sure that I am not violating trademark law when selling on Amazon?
It is important to make sure that the goods you are selling, and the content of your listings, do not violate a trademark or you could lose your selling privileges and face potential legal consequences. When you decide to sell goods on Amazon, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the goods I am selling from a reputable distributor?
- How did I acquire these goods, and will I be able to prove that they are authentic if the question arises?
- Will the way I am describing these goods cause customer confusion (for example, would something about your detail page for the generic sheet set cause customers to believe they are purchasing a Pinzon sheet set)?
- Did I use a brand name or trademark in a non-confusing and truthful manner to describe compatibility (generally allowed) instead of similarity (not allowed)?
- What is counterfeiting?
Counterfeiting is a specific type of trademark infringement. A counterfeit is an unlawful reproduction of a registered trademark – or a mark that is very similar to a registered trademark – on a product or packaging .
. A lookalike item sold on a separate product detail page without the improper use of a registered trademark is not a counterfeit, even though the item might look similar or identical to the trademarked product. However, lookalike products may infringe upon other intellectual property , such as copyright or design rights, or constitute (in some countries) unfair competition/passing off .
- What is a patent?
A patent is a form of legal protection for inventions. An issued patent grants its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling or importing the invention into the country which granted patent protection for a fixed number of years.
- Are there different types of patents?
Not in the EU. Other countries distinguish different patent types, though. For example, in the United States there are two principal types of patents: Utility patents and Design patents.
- What is the difference between a patent, trademark and a copyright?
A patent is different from a trademark in that it protects an invention (such as a new machine) rather than a word or logo used to identify the source of the product (such as the brand name of the product). A patent is different from a copyright in that it does not protect the expressive content of a creative work like a book or a picture, but protects a specific invention, such as a new method of printing books or a new type of camera.
The European Patent Office offers resources to learn more about patents.
- How can I make sure that I do not violate someone’s patent when selling on Amazon?
The manufacturer or distributor of a product might be able to assist you with patent-related issues. If you are unsure whether your content or product violates someone else’s patent, you should consult a lawyer before listing on Amazon.
- What is a parallel import?
Intellectual property rights owners (in particular trademark owners, copyright holders and their licensees) may prohibit you from importing or selling their goods in the European Economic Area (EEA), if you sourced them outside the EEA.
This prohibition applies even if the rights owner distributes the same product type in the EEA or does not distribute in the EEA, as long as they hold an intellectual property right in the EEA. Therefore, if you intend to list branded products or media items, for example on Amazon’s EU marketplaces which you source outside the EEA, seek expert legal advice and make sure that the rights owner does not object to such parallel import. Otherwise, Amazon may be asked by the rights owner to take down your listings on Amazon's EU marketplaces for IP infringement.
Parallel import of goods sourced outside the EEA for sale in the EEA with the rights owner's consent could still affect customer experience if the non-EEA product differs from the EEA version in any way (for example, packaging, warranty coverage, product variations). Describe your product appropriately to avoid negative customer feedback.
- How can I make sure that I do not sell (illegal) parallel import goods?
Make sure that you only sell products on Amazon’s EU marketplaces which you have either imported yourself with the rights owner’s consent, or which you have sourced – directly or indirectly – from a supplier who has been authorised by the rights owner to import the products into the EEA (e.g. a subsidiary of the rights owner or an authorised EEA distributor). Note that if the rights owner challenges your sales of non-EEA products, you will have to prove that these were imported into the EEA with the rights owner’s consent. So, make sure that you keep the invoices, authorisation letters etc. for these products.
- What is a utility model?
A utility model is another form of legal protection for inventions, but for so-called “minor inventions.” The registration system is similar to the patent system. Not all EU Member States have utility models, but Spain, Italy, France and Germany have this type of IP right.
- What is the difference between a utility model and a patent?
In its basic definition, a utility model is very similar to a patent, except that the requirements for acquiring a utility model are less stringent than for patents (quicker registration without the examination of novelty, inventive steps and industrial applicability).
- How can I make sure that I do not violate someone’s utility model when selling on Amazon?
The manufacturer or distributor of a product might be able to assist you with utility model-related issues. If you are unsure whether your content or product violates someone else’s utility model, you should consult a lawyer before listing on Amazon.
Refer to the European IPR Helpdesk for more information about utility models.
- What is a design?
A design is a form of legal protection for the appearance of the entire product or a part of it which results, in particular, from the characteristics of line, contours, colours, form, surface structure and/or materials of the product and/or its decoration. Any industrial or handicraft item including packaging, graphic symbols and typefaces qualify as a product. Parts of products that can be taken apart and reassembled can also be protected.
Design is territorial: A design owner usually protects a design by registering it with a country-specific office (e.g. DPMA in Germany; UIBM in Italy; OEPM in Spain) or with a cross-border office, such as the European Union Intellectual Property Office (obtaining a registered Community design).
According to European law, a design can be registered, but unregistered designs are also protected to some extent. Unregistered design rights are acquired automatically and with no need for formalities. The unregistered design right is more limited in scope as well as duration (3 years) than the registered design right.
- How can I make sure that I do not violate someone’s design when selling on Amazon?
The manufacturer or distributor of a product might be able to assist you with design-related issues. If you are unsure whether your content or product violates someone else’s design, you should consult a lawyer before listing on Amazon. The European Intellectual property Office offers resources to learn more about designs.
What to do if your account receives a warning or suspension
- What happens when I receive a warning that my listing is being removed due to a report of intellectual property rights infringement? What if I own the rights to the intellectual property?
If you receive a warning for infringement, you will have several options to appeal or dispute the claim:
- If you receive a warning for a product you never sold on Amazon, reply to the notification that you received and let us know that you have never sold the reported product. We will investigate it to determine if an error occurred.
- If you have an established relationship with the rights owner who submitted the complaint (licence, manufacturing or distribution agreement etc.), we encourage you to contact the rights owner and request that the complaint be retracted. If we receive a retraction from the rights owner, your content may be reinstated. The rights owner’s contact information is provided in the warning you received.
- If you believe that a rights owner, or Amazon, made an error when removing your product listing, reply to the notification you received and provide specific reasons as to why you believe a mistake was made. Provide any invoice or Order ID that demonstrates the authenticity of the product, where appropriate. We will then re-evaluate the notice and your content may be reinstated.
- What do I do if I receive a notice for parallel import?
Parallel import is an EU-specific type of IP infringement. See above. If your products have been imported into the EEA with the rights owner’s consent, we strongly encourage you to contact the rights owner to address the complaint directly and obtain a retraction. Only if the rights owner is unresponsive, you may appeal to us by providing us with evidence that the specific products you sold were imported into the EEA with the rights owner’s permission. Invoices showing that you sourced from an authorised distributor of the rights owner may be one type of such evidence.
- What do I do if I have received multiple warnings of intellectual property infringement?
If you have received multiple warnings of intellectual property infringement and you believe you are selling authentic products, appeal via your Seller Central account with the following information:
A list of the allegedly infringing ASINs and at least one of the following:
- Invoices proving the authenticity of your products; OR
- Order IDs demonstrating product authenticity; OR
- An authorisation letter from the rights owner (that is not a forwarded email).
- What do I do if my account has been suspended?
If your account has been suspended as a result of rights owners submitting notices of intellectual property infringement against your products or content, you can provide us with a viable Plan of Action that includes the following information:
- The reason(s) you were selling allegedly infringing products and/or uploaded allegedly infringing content.
- The steps you have taken to ensure that you are no longer infringing.
- How you will avoid infringement in the future.
- Any other pertinent information.
You should send your Plan of Action via your account dashboard or reply to the account suspension notification that you received. We will evaluate your Plan of Action and determine whether your account may be reinstated. Note that Amazon terminates the accounts of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances.
- What if I didn’t know I was violating someone’s intellectual property?
Sellers are expected to follow the law and Amazon’s policies. Amazon takes claims of intellectual property infringement seriously. Even if a seller is infringing on someone’s intellectual property without knowledge, we will still take action and the seller’s account may receive a warning or be suspended. You should consult a lawyer for help to ensure that your business has the right procedures in place to prevent IP infringement.