The e-commerce sector in India has bloomed into one of the highest revenue generating area over the past few decades and during the lockdown we saw a high dependence on such online portals as frequent lockdowns left us with no other option than buying essential or non- essential things from sellers like Amazon, Flip kart, e-bay, Myntra and so on. The hard times also lead to many becoming sellers at such online portals for additional revenue or main income as many lost jobs in the pandemic. However, not all products are genuine or original. There are many who impersonate the right holders products by copying their image, title and go on to sell similar/ identical products. The author discusses in brief how can the original owner be protected in such online platforms.
Law relating to copyright is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957. Copyright is generally granted for artistic, musical and dramatic works and thereby includes computer programme, performer’s rights, sound recordings, chorographical works and cinematographic works. It is the protection granted to the expression of ideas. Such kind of protection enables the original authors, writers, directors, composers, designers and others covered under copyright to retain their originality and also encourages many others to create or work upon their ideas. Copyright being one among the other intangible rights protected under law does not entirely create a monopoly and restrict the distribution of the works. It, however grants protection to the original copyright owner over others in case of piracy or duplicity. For the protection of designs, there is the Designs Act, 2000. It grants protection for the appeal and not for the functional utility.
Over the past few years copyright infringement in Amazon has seen a steep rise. Infringement can be of designs, physical products, image in description page or title. Now what can be done if a seller notices identical products being sold by someone else at a cheap rate or similar price and the customers are mislead. Thus losing revenue to the other seller. Here, Amazon itself has created certain rules and Redressal mechanism with regard to intellectual property rights. If the seller is a rights holder he can enroll himself in the Amazon Brand Registry. It provides the enrolled sellers to have image and text search to find out if there is any infringement or increased authority over product listings under your brand name. Then if such violation is found out, the original seller can cause to send a notice of IP infringement with contact details. Otherwise one can submit a report through Report a Violation (RAV). So, those who do not have their brands enrolled in the Brand registry can opt reporting via RAV. In India, one can even contact the grievance officer through a mail.
Now, while submitting the report the following information is to be included:
Specific identification of one’s IP along with copyright, trademark or patent registration number,
Written description of the work or link to the copyrighted work,
Specifying the ASIN or listing the product which is the subject matter of the violation.
Nature of infringement i.e., image, physical product, packaging, image on product detail page or text which is infringed,
List of infringing products and their ASIN or URLs,
Any other information which is necessary,
And finally the original owner’s contact details.
The violation reported after due enquiry is found to be true then the infringed seller may be de- listed from Amazon or the account can even be suspended.1 Even though such violations can be reported by rights holder, it is not necessary to be a registered holder to sell products in it. However, getting your products registered makes it possible to report violations.
When it comes to designs, as already mentioned earlier, the Designs Act 2000 grants protection to the designs. To meet the criteria the design must be original, undisclosed to anyone in India or other country by publication or used in any manner, must significantly distinquish one’s design from that of others and must not contain any obscene or scandalous matter. So, once the seller is registered under Designs Act, he gets copyright protection for 10 years. Even if you are not a design holder but a copyright holder, one can get protection.
Amazon has a strict policy when it comes to intellectual property violations. It has introduced the ABR- Amazon Brand Registry for the purpose of preventing infringement of logo, designs, patent and copyright of original seller’s products. This was created after repeated complaints from sellers about counterfeit products. This also ensures that the seller claiming to be original owner provides with accurate data from the date of listing. However, infringement cannot be reported for frivolous claims. It cannot be filed for generic products or with a motive to prevent others from selling the common and generic products. ABR requires the seller to submit necessary information to prevent the same. One also needs to be careful while listing their products on Amazon to prevent possible infringement of others because that may lead to suspension of the account. To sum up, every seller must ensure to list original products and also register at the ABR to prevent infringement allegations as the consequences can be harsher than what one expects. It is also advisable to have a legal attorney to get timely advise and warn against such malpractices.
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