One week in to my Merch by Amazon adventure and it’s already been a rollercoaster as I’ve had a number of designs rejected for copyright infringment.
Merch By Amazon’s Copyright / Trademark Policy
Merch by Amazon have an extremely tough trademark policy. The reason is because they effectively the vendor of record for the designs that you are uploading so if there is a trademark infringement then the buck will stop with them, which makes them extremely risk averse.
Their Terms of Service state the following:
1.1 Copyright: Designs that incorporate copyrights which you don’t have the rights to use, or copied from someone else. It is your responsibility to ensure that your content doesn’t violate copyright laws. Ask yourself, “did I design this or did I copy someone else’s work to create this?” Designs with the same idea/concept are allowed; the artwork itself, however cannot be copied without the owner’s permission.
1.2 Trademark: Designs that incorporate trademarks which you don’t have the rights to use. It is your responsibility to ensure that your content doesn’t violate trademark or other rights. You can check the USPTO for trademarks here: https://www.uspto.gov/
This may seem fairly clear but you have to remember that this applies not only to the content of your image but also:
- Product Title
- Bullet Points
- Product Description
You will be surprised at some of the terms that are actually copyrighted, so you really need to check everything that goes into your listings on the following site: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/
The other thing to note is that if there is a trademarked phrase such as “Team USA” and you have a combination of those words in your bullets or description eg “Cool Tshirt for USA Sports fans to cheer on their team” then this would be a reason to reject a shirt as well.
It really is a bit of a minefield and you need to be extremely careful what you are listing.
4 Designs Rejected
This week I already had 4 rejections for Tshirts that I was trying to upload, which is really worrying as if you get too many rejections they will quickly close your account.
The other problem I have is that they do not give specific reasons for why they have rejected the submission.
I just received an email with the following information:
“Thank you for your recent design submission on Merch by Amazon – XXXXXX T Shirt. We are contacting you because your submission appears to violate our Content Policy guideline – 1.1 Copyright. You may only use content for which you have documented rights to use. The Content Policy applies to your designs, product names, keywords on the detail page and the “brand” name selected. Submitting designs and/or product information using trademarked material is a violation of the Merch by Amazon Services agreement. “
For one of my shirts I used the phrase ‘Go USA’ somewhere, which is trademarked and a stupid oversight from me, but for the other shirts, I couldn’t find any reason why they should be taken down.
In the end what I did was delete the bullet points and re-submitted and they got approved.
Again, I think this is something to do with a combination of words I used in the bullet points that made up a trademark.
How to Avoid Getting Designs Rejected on Merch
- Avoid big events – If you wan to play it really safe then don’t go anywhere near any major events like the Olympics or World Cup. Whilst there may be a big market there, there are also plenty of trademark lawyers trying to find infringements so best to stay clear.
- Avoid sports teams – Trying to market to fans who follow a specific sports team, even national team is a bit of a tightrope to tread as well as these areas are heavily trademarked and can lead to rejections and takedowns
- Check everything – Check every word that you are listing on the following link in case there are any live trademarks http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/
- Check other listings – Don’t be a dufus and copy other people’s work. Check other listings on Amazon first in case someone else has already listed the same product
- Check your images – Only use images from sources which give you a commercial use license. For example pixabay.com is a great resource for free commercial use images, but taking images directly from places like Google Images or Flickr should not be done unless you have full commercial use rights
- Check your fonts – Again be very careful that you have the rights to use the font commercially. Even if you are creating your designs in a third party application eg Wordswag sometimes they use fonts which are only for personal use. This is why I prefer to make all my designs in Photoshop with commercial use fonts that I have downloaded.
At least to start with it would make sense to be a little more cautious with what you are listing on Amazon, especially because when you are on Tier 10, all of your submissions are reviewed manually so you should try to stay whiter than white. It’s probably good to keep this approach moving forward even if you don’t get reviewed manually, just so you can keep your account in good health