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‘We need action against the fakers’

TruffleShuffle md Pat Wood on stopping the future of retail looking like a ‘dodgy car boot sale’.

TruffleShuffle’s md Pat Wood has previously raised concerns about how eBay’s black market was becoming big business.

He is heartened that licensors are being more proactive about the bootleggers, however from a retailer’s point of view, he feels that Amazon and eBay really don’t care too much for protecting IP as it’s costing them lost sales and lost commission. He explains how…

1. TruffleShuffle produces a rather fetching Labyrinth T-Shirt. Goes through the full approval process with The Jim Henson Company, using official artwork from the studio.

2. We feature this t-shirt design on our Amazon and eBay stores and it starts moving up the best sellers lists on Amazon.

3. A Chinese based Amazon seller with the catchy seller ID of ‘fdisfhdb’ notices this t-shirt and thinks “I can copy that, cheaply”.

4. Using Amazon’s model of ‘one-product, multiple sellers’, fdisfhdb uses its Amazon seller account to tell Amazon “I sell that exact same t-shirt too at £6.79 shipped from China to the UK”.

5. Amazon lists fdisfhdb as a seller of the t-shirt, and gives consumers the option to buy from ‘fdisfhdb’ at £6.79 with 3-week shipping from China or ‘TruffleShuffleTShirts’ at £19.99 delivered tomorrow.

It is at this point that the consumer is deceived into believing that the PRODUCTS ARE IDENTICAL.

In fact, fdisfhdb is copying and pasting our Amazon images and DTG printing these onto their own cheap blank garments. Yes, you read that correctly, they are printing a 500 pixel wide photo of a t-shirt onto a t-shirt and passing it off as the real thing.

It gets worse. When the duped consumer receives their dreadful counterfeit product they leave negative feedback on Amazon and demand their money back. That bad feedback goes against TruffleShuffle’s listing – because, according to Amazon (who have also been duped) the two products are the same.

In 2016 I have seen this problem balloon to epic proportions. Almost a quarter of our 3,000 products have been piggybacked by black market international vendors at some point in the past year. We call and email Amazon relentlessly to put a stop to these relatively obvious infringements and their response is shocking.

In order to prove beyond doubt that these piggybacked listings are indeed counterfeits, Amazon requires you to PURCHASE every one, take photos and then report back. We spot tested this with just four of our designs in September and we ended up spending £1,600 on fakes!

To add insult to injury, we then have to file a dispute with each seller in order to get our money back. As soon as Amazon takes action and suspends the vendor, all they need to do is open a new seller account under a new email address and they are allowed to continue as they did before.

Ironically, if you want to sell licensed goods to Chinese consumers on TMall (China’s answer to Amazon), you have to send TMall copies of every licensing agreement and trademark registration.

Come on Amazon. The future of retail is starting to look an awful lot like a dodgy car boot sale.

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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