Amazon Is Drowning in Trademarks

At least 700,000 brands on Amazon have a trademark. An increase of 40% from the prior year. Even seemingly randomly generated names like LORELEI, RORSOU, MAJCF, or VBIGER are trademarked brands.

Most Amazon sellers that create brands to sell private label products join Brand Registry. An optional but ubiquitous service that enables access to more tools, reporting, and services for sellers with a trademarked brand. Creating a trademark and joining Brand Registry are among the first steps for new sellers. This week, Amazon said, “In 2021, Brand Registry had over 700,000 brands enrolled, compared to 500,000 in 2020, a 40% increase.”

The number of brands highlights a unique characteristic of Amazon. Amazon’s catalog size is typically a wrong question. Shoppers only see 48 items on the first page of search results and rarely click beyond that. But the metric is interesting because it explains the nature of the marketplace.

The brand name - LORELEI, RORSOU, MAJCF, or VBIGER - is inconsequential, but the existence of a trademark is critical. The brand and the trademark are not for consumers to remember but rather a required artifact to sell on Amazon. A random string of letters is also less likely to clash with existing trademarks in the USPTO database and thus is faster to register even if most brands end up short-lived.

Trademark Registration Applications USPTO

So many brands are launching on Amazon that their trademark registrations are increasingly overwhelming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The office received a record 943,928 trademark registration applications in 2021. The number of applications has increased 70% in five years. Unsurprisingly, the current processing backlog and thus processing time are at all-time highs.

25% of USPTO trademark registrations were for businesses in China. Five years ago, their share was close to 5%. In the EU, 38% of trademark registrations were for businesses in China. Many of those businesses eventually sell on Amazon.

The hundreds of thousands of “brands” is an artifact of the Amazon marketplace. Shoppers cannot remember any of them; thus, none could grow social media following or launch a direct-to-consumer channel. But on Amazon, that doesn’t matter. It’s bizarre and surprising, but most things on Amazon do not have a brand. A trademark is not a brand.

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Juozas "Joe" Kaziukėnas

Founder of Marketplace Pulse, Joe wears multiple hats in the management of Marketplace Pulse, including writing most of the articles. Based in New York City. Advisor to other startups and entrepreneurs. Occasional speaker at conferences.

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