[Seller interview] “Amazon lets other sellers use our brand name despite alerts from us!” shares seller Alok [Part 1]

The so-called golden era of Indian ecommerce also comes with the ugly side of counterfeit/fake goods being sold by unethical sellers. No doubt it’s not fair for the genuine sellers and they expect marketplaces to have their back by weeding out the black sheep.

However, our recently published article “Is Amazon not taking action against brand infringement” highlights how Amazon may be turning a blind eye to sellers copying other brands. We knew many were facing the issue and probably pulling their hair out in figuring out a resolution.

So when Alok from Gizmobaba wrote to us, we had to know more ‘straight from the horse’s mouth!’

Alok Chawla, CEO, Gizmobaba

 Gizmobaba

Founded in 2012, Gizmobaba is an accessories brand based out of Mumbai.

gizmo products

They started selling on eBay India but very soon realized that marketplaces are not at all seller friendly. And that’s how Gizmobaba.com came into being.

In this IOS exclusive interview, CEO Alok Chawla tells us more about the battle with the pirates of their brand.

IOS: What is your current online presence?

Alok: In addition to our own site, we are selling on eBay, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon.

However, marketplaces currently contribute to less than 5% of our total business. We intend bring this to zero very soon. We have already withdrawn from ebay due to multiple issues and non-existent seller support.

gizmo

Compared to May 2015, website sales revenues have more than tripled with no external investment, primarily fuelled only by internal accruals.

When did you notice the issue of your brand infringement? Which marketplace?

The brand infringement issues were first noticed in November 2014 on Snapdeal. The issues were then also found on Flipkart and Amazon. We escalated the same to the marketplaces and also the media.

How did these marketplaces react when you alerted them?

The response was quite lukewarm. We were able to get the listings removed from Flipkart and Snapdeal with substantial effort after reaching out to their senior management.

It was much more difficult with Amazon. Their mails always say, “We take trademark infringements very seriously” but we found out that they mean nothing. The rules are made in a way to show concern, but in reality to allow the fakes to build revenue.

Amazon was, and remains the most difficult marketplace to get fakes removed. They have readymade preformatted replies, which are sent out, and they keep driving the sellers in circles. Neither does the issue get escalated to senior levels, nor does it get resolved.

How did you tackle the issue? What are the steps you took?

The first time, we reached out to the senior management of the marketplaces and after a lot of effort, we were able to get the fakes removed. With amazon, we had to get all our listings deleted, and relisted with our brand specified in the title as well as the description. Unfortunately, even after this effort, Amazon allows sellers to blatantly continue listing with our brand name in the title, as well as the “Brand” Section. They even allow sellers to stock in Amazon warehouses under the “Fulfilled by Amazon” stock and sell it with the brand name of another seller. Multiple emails and escalations have resulted in no success.

jbl gizmobaba amazon screenshot fake FBA

 Is there a legal route sellers can take?

As per our understanding and legal opinion,

Marketplaces cannot continue to harbor fakes and infringe trademarks once they have been officially informed about the same.

They can hide under the cover of “we were not aware about it” as long as the issue is not escalated. However, once escalated, they have to comply with the law of the land and remove any listings that are illegal in any way.

Lets say for example, the listing was not a trademark infringement, but was for sale of illegal goods, say drugs. Would Amazon still say “we are just a marketplace, you need to contact the seller and serve the notice to him?”

How can trademark infringement be any different? There cannot be grades of breaking the law. Amazon cannot say that we will let our sellers break laws up to a certain level and take action only if the level of illegality exceeds a certain threshold.

Stay tuned to know more about Alok’s opinion on the issue of brand infringement [Part 2].

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5 Comments

  1. Ankur Reply

    Alrite, this is half baked story from Gizmobaba. We sell on Amazon too and have successfully removed unauthorized/fake sellers infringing on our Brand name many times. Amazon guidelines clearly states that if you believe that a seller is selling fake products by multi tagging your products then you need to prove it. You can do so buy placing an order of that fake product and send images of that item to Amazon to prove it.
    I doubt Gizmobaga have tried it otherwise they would have mentioned it in this interview. The fact is, all these images of products shown in the article(except JBL) are Chinese products and Gizmobaba is just selling it under their registered
    brand name, anyone can source it from china and start selling it by Multi-tagging the existing listings on Amazon or anywhere else. Amazon allows this because it results in reduced pricing due to competition which is good for the customers.

    • Even though I completely understand the problem Mr. Alok has stated in this 2 part interview, I have to say that its just one side of the coin. Expanding further on Ankur’s point, I have faced these issues myself on both ends i.e. having other sellers selling on our listings/brand products and being removed from others’ listings.

      Its a nuisance of an online marketplace and one of the strongest reasons Amazon is so strong worldwide and is succeeding in India market with equivalent force. This practice of consolidating listings enhances customer experience. Given the highly organized categories with no standardization whatsoever that we have in India, it is impossible to give everybody’s trademarked name brand protection, it will result in 100s of duplicate listings of EXACT SAME product (even purchased from same importer) at the marketplace at different prices. In that case, simply think about the plight of the customer. It is harmful for the entire ecosystem in the long run.

      Then Amazon will also end up becoming like a “flea market”. Therefore, in conclusion, instead of fighting this ‘unwinnable battle’, one should strategize to win the war by creating differentiation at product level and/or create such a strong branding that CUSTOMERS report that item is fake rather than the seller.

      Tip: Invest in branded packaging if there not already, product packaging and NOT courier packaging. Get brand engraved on products and put up pictures with that. Then, that DESERVES brand protection. That is a battle worth fighting for.

  2. Mr. Ankur,

    Obviously you have NO IDEA what a registered trademark means.
    Large brands import from China and use their trademark to market the products. You are suggesting that anyone can import a duplicate and sell under the brands trademark.

    You are saying selling fakes at lower price is good for customers? It appears you are one of the sellers of fakes who actually benefits from this loophole!

    We have proceeded legally against Amazon, and Amazon HAD to remove the illegal listings, which PROVES that we were right.

    We also have ON RECORD a telephone call recording with Amazon team where they explicitly agree that what happened was WRONG and trademarks were INFRINGED.

    We are currently proceeding legally against every seller who tries to sell fakes under our brand name and all fake goods are being SEIZED. If you are among them, we suggest you withdraw your listings immediately.

    Thanks,
    Gizmobaba Legal team

  3. Tanooja Agarwal Reply

    Yes , using Zigmobaba’s name , video url’s and other content is really inevitable for legal proceedings. As a seller one cannot use other brand’s name who are popular in selling such kind of products. most of the new sellers are sourcing from china using Alibaba or similar platform and selling on Indian marketplaces under their own registered brand name. For example if you source the above jbl earphones or bathroom accessories from china and you can sell under your brand name but using Zigmobaba’s name is illegal. anyone can source the same product and sell on marketplaces or can tag ( sell from existing catalog) . Most of the marketplaces are allowing to do that if any product already listed on marketplaces , you can sell yourself with lower pricing or higher pricing , right ? this multi tagging allows to marketplaces saves lot of network resources , storage and avoid confusion with duplicate listings for buyers.

    finally , Selling from existing catalogs on marketplaces is okay but unauthorized using of brand names or content or any copyrighted content are strictly not. Request me to correct if i am wrong. Thanks.

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