It turns out Rich Holmes, assistant general counsel for Edison Nation, didn’t need his law degree to fight knock-off operations that were trafficking in one of the company’s top-selling products, the Gyro Bowl.
This year Holmes discovered shady Chinese manufacturers selling cheap imitations of the Gyro Bowl on eBay and Alibaba.
“I saw a photo of the packaging with our same color scheme and a listing title,” he says. “It was pretty blatant.”
Fortunately, online marketplaces eBay and Alibaba offer do-it-yourself tools to shut down sales of products that infringe patents.
The catch, of course, is that your product needs to have a patent or official intellectual property protection.
Holmes used eBay’s Verified Rights Owner Program or VeRO to shut down illicit sales of the Gyro Bowl on that site.
VeRO allows you to register and identify your intellectual property for free. Top brands such as Nike and Coach use this system. Individual inventors can, too. VeRO involves filling out a one-page form, which you have to submit via fax.
“The number’s always busy,” Holmes says. “But eventually it will get through.”
After the initial fax, all other correspondence related to your issue can be done through email.
Holmes says eBay removed the offending listings within a day.
Alibaba’s system is a little more complex, but just as effective in dealing with most counterfeiters.
You have to register your intellectual property, upload copies of your patents and any trademarks and copyrights. Verification takes five to seven days.
Alibaba is based in China. It will remove patent-infringing listings from its alibaba.com and aliexpress.com sites. But it doesn’t recognize intellectual property challenges on its alibaba.cn site.
Still, Holmes says Alibaba removed some 400 offending listings related to the Gyro Bowl.
“I had wondered, ‘Is Alibaba more interested in 400 companies (that listed and were selling knock-off products), or this one company in Charlotte, N.C.?’” Holmes says. “But what they did was impressive.
“There’s no way to calculate what we’ve lost from knock-off Gyro Bowls,” he adds.
Holmes encourages inventors of patented products to take swift action when they see someone selling counterfeit goods.
“You pour your blood, sweat and tears into making and marketing your product,” he says. “All that is for naught if someone is violating your IP rights.”
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