The Impact of E-Commerce Revolution
The rise of e-commerce has revolutionized the way we shop, making it easier than ever to access a wide range of products from the comfort of our homes. While this convenience has brought countless benefits, it has also given rise to a significant problem: unauthorized resellers and the proliferation of counterfeit products sold online. These illicit traders – who peddle damaged, inferior, or knockoff products that are virtually indistinguishable from genuine products – pose serious risks to both consumers and brands alike; and undermine the public’s trust in e-commerce marketplaces and the integrity of products sold online.
Challenges Faced by Otter Products LLC
Otter Products LLC (Otter), one of the leading producers of mobile protection products under the OtterBox brand, is no stranger to this practice. Otter has taken up the fight against knockoffs by initiating a trademark infringement complaint in Washington against fifty (50) unauthorized resellers on the Amazon Marketplace – currently only known as “John Doe Defendants” – claiming these unauthorized resellers used certain Amazon storefronts to sell defective, damaged, low quality, or inferior knockoffs bearing the Otter trademarks. Unbeknownst to the average consumer, the products sold by these unauthorized resellers are not subject to Otter’s quality controls and do not come with Otter’s warranty. In the same lawsuit, Otter also brought claims against 50 authorized resellers – also only known as “John Doe Defendants” – alleging that these authorized resellers breached their agreements with Otter by either selling Otter branded products on Amazon and other online marketplaces or otherwise improperly selling Otter products to unauthorized resellers without Otter’s permission or consent.
Challenges in Controlling E-Commerce Sales
According to Otter’s complaint, because certain sellers operate anonymously on e-commerce marketplaces, manufacturers lack the ability to control the products they sell, which presents serious risks to the satisfaction and safety of the consuming public. These practices also curtail a manufacturer’s ability to maintain its goodwill, reputation, and brand integrity, because the customer is more likely to associate his or her frustration with a damaged, defective, inferior, or counterfeit product with the manufacturer instead of the anonymous seller. Additionally, Otter maintains that it has been the victim of multiple negative online marketplace reviews from customers who purchased poor quality, defective, or knockoff products from unauthorized sellers. Customers rely on product reviews in making purchasing decisions, and a few bad reviews can be devastating for a manufacturer’s reputation, goodwill, and bottom line.
Past Success and Ongoing Efforts
Otter has been down this road before, with success. In a 2019 Colorado lawsuit, Otter was successful on its claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising and deceptive trade practices against unauthorized sellers peddling Otter products on online marketplaces, including Amazon.
As brands such as OtterBox continue to combat inferior counterfeit products and unauthorized product sales on the Amazon Marketplace and other online retailers, it is important for businesses and brands to remain vigilant in monitoring online retailer listings and the content related to their listings, as well as competitors’ products who may be infringing intellectual property. For assistance navigating these issues or the e-commerce marketplace generally, please reach out to Nathan F. Studeny (216.736.7284; firstname.lastname@example.org), Derek Hartman (216.736.7248; email@example.com), or one of KJK’s eCommerce attorneys.