Combating the Competition

What are you doing to combat the continuous arrival of Chinese sellers knocking off your products?

This year is by far the worst. I sell a lot of seasonal products that I spend months (or even years) designing. I manufacture them overseas working with factories I’ve used for years and the packaging has my branding that I sell on my branded listing. The products are unique but not so unique that I want to spend money upfront on patenting them. In the past couple months all of my best sellers from last holiday season are now being sold by Chinese sellers. They are not on my listing but their own branded listing (usually an unpronounceable name) and their images, video, and descriptions all look extremely similar to all the content that’s on my listing. They’re also spending money on advertising, so they all appear as sponsored products on my own listing and at a lower price.

I just don’t know how to compete anymore. These sellers are all clearly using the tech that’s out there that tells you what the best-performing ASINs are and then knocking off the category leaders. My only growth these days comes from new products and it only lasts a year until the competition arrives. I’ve made some purchases of these products and the quality isn’t there - thinner materials, sizing slightly off. They never are as nice as they look in the pictures. Is there any way to prevent these sellers if I don’t patent the products?

I started selling on Walmart this year but the volume has been extremely disappointing. Ebay is not a good fit for my products. My own website is mostly for B2B sales, if I were to set up a shop for DTC it would likely upset my distributors and online retailers, not to mention I’d have to outsource fulfillment.

I’ve tried a couple of different ad agencies and am constantly playing around with all the programs Amazon keeps putting out there - vine, creator connections, brand-tailored promotions, b2b pricing - none of which create significant sales.

After selling on Amazon for over a decade, 2023 will be the first year of a decline in sales. I know I’m not the only one experiencing this, what strategies are you using to combat all the new knockoffs popping up on Amazon?

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Your IP is protected by US law, even if you don’t register your patent, copyright, trademark, etc with USPTO.

:grimacing: Unfortunately I suspect that the only way to truly combat this type of IP theft is legally, and not with Amazon but with your own lawyer.

And even more unfortunately, I suspect that the best case legal outcome would be that these products would no longer be offered on Amazon and only these specific accounts would be deactivated–no compensation, no punitive damages, no legal fees, no prevention, no large embargo across Temu or eBay, no real accountability, etc.

I wish I knew what the big solution is. :persevere:

Neil, You have described well the state of a small American creator/manufacturer today.

There is no solution. How can there be?

  1. Chinese can send their products to the USA cheaper than Americans.
  2. Chinese cost of living is far lower than ours, so you making $1k “margin” might pay the bills, but for the Chinese it is a gold mine.
  3. Trademarks, Patents, IP rights, are meaningless to the Chinese, as there is virtually no way to enforce.
  4. Amazon is not on the American business side.
  5. and finally, the American consumer as a whole is all talk, but does not care a penny for the plight of us smaller businesses.

One strategy, I have done is.

  1. Create a product - Sell at high-er price than what you normally do.
  2. Expect it to be ripped off in year two.
  3. Year two - Mark the product “new and improved”, or add something different, like extra pieces, larger, with colors, or whatever to distinguish it from the rip-offs.
  4. Year three - or 2.5 - drop the price below the others to clear out the inventory.

Beside that, the only solution, that I can see is to sell your business to a larger company, that has the resources to combat this new reality.

Sad, but Amazon will never be our partners.

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What is also disturbing to me is that lately every ‘live’ television show is hawking products sold on Amazon and I’m seeing a lot of unpronounceable brand names. Today I saw one that is a set of 4 bracelets for $7. The presenters gushed over them. How good could they really be??

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And did they describe them as “hand made”? :eyes:

No they did not make the hand made claim.

Last week they showed some clothing from the brand “Generic”. They said it as if they thought generic really was the brand name.

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I would try to be successful but not too successful that it attracts attention. Lots of not too successful products = success.

That, and don’t use overseas manufacturers. They are making extra units to sell to your competitors.

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Only copyrights offer protection without registration.

If you saw no reason to patent your product, you were probably correct, you could then bring a lawsuit attempting to seek damages for patent infringement and not only lose but also see your patent removed.

Products which can easily be manufactured in China or other less developed countries will have short life cycles because of what you are experiencing,

You need a continuous stream of new or improved products so you have something you can successfully compete with.

Some keywords for those products need to be - Bigger, Faster, Cheaper. If you do not have one or more of these going for you, you need to focus all of your energy on new products - these are already gone.

If you could move the manufacturing offshore, that was a sure sign that your product had a limited lifespan.

Lots of promotion and advertising is a waste of money. Gresham’s Law is in effect.

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Can’t all products be easily manufactured in China these days??

I don’t care about seeking damages. I just want to kick them off Amazon.

I used to heavily rely on organic rankings but with the influx of competition and sponsored products, mine have mostly been kicked off page 1.

I guess I will be pivoting my strategy to a “continuous stream of new products” with limited inventory that will last 1 seasonal cycle. Gone are the days of having a good 5-year run on a product with no knockoffs.

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You are right about IP protection with copyright.

But there is a problem with that and Amazon: they don’t care.
We are being extremely copied in USA and Europe and they don’t care. We have patents in OEPM (Spain), EUIPO (Europe), WIPO (Worldwide) and USPTO (US)… and Amazon just doesn’t care.

We reported a foreign seller and they sent us an email threatening us: “we will hit you 25 times harder than you do with your reports”.

Also, is extremely hard to bring a lawsuit against China based sellers for different reasons:

  1. Chinese don’t care
  2. Hard, costly and slow process
  3. Maybe, if there is success, you can shut down their listing or even knock them out of Amazon, but they will come back with a different company/brand and the process will start again.

This is very frustrating.

Copyright enforcement is your responsibility.

Amazon will care if a court issues an injunction barring the sales, or requiring they sequester the infringer’s funds and FBA inventory.

If you fail to take action Amazon will do nothing, because they have nothing at risk.

You and I do not write our laws, fools and knaves do,

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Nail, meet hammer.

At the risk of violating the SAS Community Guidelines, I would submit that the knaves are largely concentrated in the Halls Of Power, while the fools are largely concentrated in the twittering & twerking, distracted & disengaged electorate which puts them there.