Is this Amazon "policy violation" notice a scam?
May 13, 2017 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I received a notice from Amazon about a policy violation about trademark infringement. The message lists 17 ASIN identifier numbers, for many disparate types of items. 11 of the items are inactive (some were sold years ago). There are no details about what the infringement supposedly is, and the only information given is a contact address that has no obvious relationship to any of the items.

Here is the text of the message:

Hello,

We are contacting you because we received a report of trademark infringement from the rights owner listed below. Sellers on Amazon.com are not allowed to create listings or detail pages that infringe trademark rights.

We removed the content listed at the end of this email. We may let you list this content again if we receive a retraction of the complaint from the rights owner. Their contact information can be found below.

--bgottfried@cmsales.com

If the rights owner agrees to retract their complaint, they must send the retraction to us at notice-dispute@amazon.com.

If you believe that the reported content does not infringe the rights owner’s trademark, you may email notice-dispute@amazon.com with supporting information.

If the rights owner does not retract their complaint, or you do not provide supporting information, we may provide your contact information to the rights owner upon their request.

We consider allegations of intellectual property infringement a serious matter and your account is under review. If we receive more complaints about your listings, we may not allow you to sell on Amazon.com.

To learn more about this policy, search for 'Intellectual Property Violations' in Seller Central Help.

ASIN(s):
B007R9TSA0
B0007YJDY8
155860829X
1930846266
0521857279
B01G5E58N8
B00BFMUT7Q
0122053516
B000BH3IWO
B010WEQXDG
B003EUG5KM
B01HCA9Y3E
185578047X
B005C50H2Y
B00EIQNBXA
B00009R6CO
3642032559
Complaint ID: 944776061
Infringement type: Trademark

Sincerely,
Amazon.com
All of the given ASINs really are for used items that I have tried to sell, so that much is correct. Googling around, I cannot find a discussion of this being an obvious scam. However:

1) The ASIN list contains 17 items, including books, camera lenses, camera accessors, and computer accessories. The items were manufactured or produced by many different companies. How is it possible that a single company can claim trademark infringement for all of these very different types of items?

2) Of the 17 items listed, 11 are inactive and unlisted, and most have been inactive literally for years, because they were sold that long ago. Why would a trademark infringement be filed for things that are unlisted? Indeed, how did they even find them? When I visit my seller page on Amazon, it only lists the active items: https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&seller=A2WK56FCAYFWTA

3) Althought the message from Amazon states "we removed the content", in fact, the 6 still-active items are still listed. So ... what was removed, exactly?

4) All of the still-listed 6 items are books by different publishers. All are used books that I bought and am now selling, which is a practice that many people seem to do on Amazon. Is this practice a trademark infringement?

5) The contact address given in the policy violation address is not the address of a publisher; it is "cmsales.com", which is "Continental Marketing, Inc.", which according to their website, is "a sales and marketing representative agency". I would find it sort of plausible if a publisher wanted to claim a trademark infringement against someone selling a used book (though I personally think it would be unusual and unexpected – but IANAL). However, I don't find it plausible that "cmsales.com" would claim I somehow infringed the trademarks of books publshed by multiple different publishers.

Any advice here would be much appreciated. I'm kind of baffled by this, and the section about "intellectual property violations" in Seller Central Help didn't really help clarify this situation. I'm loath to contact the given address at cmsales.com without a better sense for what kind of scam this might be.
posted by StrawberryPie to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Have you considered forwarding this to notice-dispute@amazon.com and asking them wtf is going on?
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:55 PM on May 13


Do not forward anything to the email the scammers provided!

Call Amazon customer service directly, find out where you should report this.
posted by jbenben at 7:36 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Brett Gottfried from CM Sales appears to be a real person, with some social media presence. I don't think it's a scam, but I really have no idea what else it could be. I'd shoot him an email and ask if there's some kind of mix up.
posted by blackzinfandel at 8:20 PM on May 13


I'd shoot him an email and ask if there's some kind of mix up.

I see zero advantage to engaging with someone who is very likely to be running some kind of weird scam.

Email Amazon directly, at whatever the seller contact email is on its website.
posted by praemunire at 8:25 PM on May 13 [17 favorites]


Well, that appears to be his work email. So if he is doing something shady, I think his employer would like to know he's doing it with their email.
posted by blackzinfandel at 8:48 PM on May 13


Hi, there. I did a search of seller forums over there, and this is a question that has been asked frequently, and more often recently, it seems. Unfortunately, there is no one definitive answer or solution offered, though you might find this guy's answer informative:

"Yes - this is commonplace. Fake filings using fake email addresses at supposed rights owner domain names is easy, because the 'Report Infringement' page has zero security and does not require sign-in. TBH such an antiquated page is simply embarrassing and it's incredible that Amazon haven't modernized it. I also have never heard of sellers getting shuttered for filing fake complaints about their competitors. Seems to be open season to just file fake complaints with zero consequences."--Langton_Distribution

Amazon is more or less helpful to sellers with questions, depending on the representative you get and how knowledgeable they are versus reading off a script. Worth using the "contact us" on your seller central page to see if you can get any resolution.

Some sellers advise you to throw up your hands and unlist all the noted AISNs, but I don't like to be bullied, and I'm damn sure not going to remove a BOOK under these circumstances. I checked some of the ISBNs you listed, and I see no hindrance to listing them as a fellow seller.

Good luck and I hope you get some resolution. Selling over there has been a roller-coaster lately, what with all of the hijacked accounts adding to the general happy mayhem life as a third-party seller can be.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:53 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this seems fishy as hell.

IANAL, but. . . .

How is it possible that a single company can claim trademark infringement for all of these very different types of items?

In theory, I suppose, this "Continental Marketing" company could have contracts with multiple manufacturers to seek out and shut down any trademark infringements they find. (In the US, trademark, unlike copyright, requires an "active defense".) They don't own the trademarks, they're just the representatives of the trademark owners. However . . .

All are used books that I bought and am now selling, which is a practice that many people seem to do on Amazon. Is this practice a trademark infringement?

Nope. Trademark is for stuff like the publisher's logos or company names, not the actual physical products of the publisher (or the lensmakers, or the companies who made the computer accessories you sold, etc etc etc.) If you were printing your own copies of the books and stamping them with your homemade version of the publisher's logo, that would be a trademark infringement (among other things.) If selling used books was an infringement on trademarks, there would never have been any such thing as used bookstores, much less Amazon.

Of the 17 items listed, 11 are inactive and unlisted, and most have been inactive literally for years, because they were sold that long ago. Why would a trademark infringement be filed for things that are unlisted? Indeed, how did they even find them?

No idea how they might have found them, but the simple fact that they're making a claim against such a wide variety of products over such a long period of time suggests that this is fake - they're throwing up a claim against whatever products of yours they managed to find info on, regardless of whether the products are related, or whether the products establish a pattern over time of trademark infringement, or whether "trademark infringement" even makes any sense - which again, in the the context of selling used books, it doesn't make any sense.

So.

1) Are you absolutely positively 110% certain the email is actually from Amazon, like the address actually has "amazon" in it, that it isn't some kind of spoof?

2) If so, then definitely contact Amazon about this, that you suspect a scam. DO NOT contact anyone at cmsales. Bgottfried may well be a real person whose email has been spoofed and may well have no idea what's going on under their name. Or Continental Marketing could just be a scam operation entirely, but that's not really your immediate concern. Your relation with Amazon is.

One assumes the scam part of this is that when you contact the cmsales email you'll either be told that they'll drop the complaint in exchange for you paying them $$$ in fines and fees, or that during the course of "confirming" that you're really you and a legit Amazon seller and that you can legally sell the books/other products they'll ask for things like your Social Security number or other info that can be used for some form of identity theft.
posted by soundguy99 at 1:18 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Whenever I receive an email from Amazon UK, it always starts Hi [my first name]. I cannot believe that Amazon US would start with Hello rather than Hi and that they would not put your first name/user name.
posted by TheRaven at 1:30 AM on May 14


Are there any links in the e-mail that appear to go to Amazon? There's some possibility it could be a phishing scam.
posted by Candleman at 5:00 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Do not forward anything to the email the scammers provided!

I kinda doubt an @amazon.com email address is going to be a problem in that regard. I would not contact the non-amazon emails, obviously.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:13 AM on May 14


Some answers to questions that came up:

1) I did check the mail headers, and they do appear legitimately from Amazon.

2) There are no links in the message that I received (plain text). My first thought was also that it's a phishing scam, but it doesn't appear to be (or if it is, it's quite roundabout).

Thanks for everyone's replies so far!
posted by StrawberryPie at 6:03 PM on May 14


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