Tired As A Mercher – How Merch Informer Trademark Alerts Can Mean The Difference Between Sales And Amazon Dogs

Merch by Amazon users, it is time we had a talk about an issue I see time and time again yet no one is doing anything about.

Maybe it is my fault for not posting something like this earlier, but I am sick and tired of seeing people have their Merch by Amazon accounts get strikes for trademark infringement when it is all avoidable!

You see, another trademark has been applied for and granted. You may have gotten a strike against your account recently and that is just not okay!

The phrase in question is: “Tired As A Mother”.

Here is the email that people are getting:

When we first started Merch Informer a little over a year ago to date, our goal was to help the Merch community grow together, make more money, and sell more shirts! The aim of this very blog is to educate users on how they can grow at the fastest rate possible all while staying within the rules of the program.

Today, I want to go over exactly how to do your trademark checks and ensure that if you did get a strike against your account for something like the above image or phrase, that it never happens to you again.

Make Sure You Never Get A Trademark Strike Again

In order to make sure that you never get a Merch by Amazon strike again, there are a few moving parts to this entire equation.

If you are the type of person who would rather watch a video instead, here you go!

Step 1: Research

The very first step in any Merchers journey is to do your proper research on what niches are selling. The technique that we use to this day to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars is to identify niches with low BSRs (Best Sellers Rank), to see where the customer demand is. You can do this by opening up Amazon and searching for any random keyword you want. From there, open up EVERY SINGLE result in the first 5-10 pages.

The reason you should open up every single result on the first 5-10 pages of results is so you get the best picture of what is selling in the niche and why.

Remember, they are not ranked in Amazon by best sellers rank. It could be that one of the designs on the 8th page is actually selling better on the 1st page! Why you may ask? That design might be better optimized for another keyword that you did NOT type in. It may turn out that the phrase you typed in might be getting a sale a day but the result on the 8th page is selling 20 units a day because while it contains the keyword you searched for, is actually optimized for something else, which is bringing in the sales. This is CRUCIAL to understand. Once you know that, you can begin finding the diamonds in the rough that will bring you easy money with very little work.

Now yes, this research process can take hundreds or thousands of hours if you are doing it at scale.

The quicker way is to use Merch Informer.

Once you have determined the niche, in this case the phrase we want to use “tired as a mother”, create some spreadsheets with the designs that you think can be completely changed and revamped into a better product.

Step 2: Check Trademarks

The second step every Mercher must take is making sure the phrase is not protected by Trademark.

The way you do this is by opening up TESS or the trademark electronic search system offered by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).

Click on basic word mark search and you will see the screen above. Enter the search term and click on submit query.

You will now see what the word marks that are registered. Make sure to see which ones have a serial number and registration numbers. The word marks with BOTH are considered live and enforceable. Click the name of the word mark to see what goods and services the mark is registered for:

Once you click through, you will notice that this word mark is registered for T-Shirts and a bunch of other categories. If you want to read more into the mark, click on the TSDR button at the top:

As you can see near the bottom of this screen shot, it was just registered on November 14th, 2017. This means the mark is live, and you can no longer make t-shirts with this phrase on them.

DISCLAIMER: Many people had shirts with this phrase on them up on Merch by Amazon BEFORE this mark went live. A lot of you guys and gals may have very well did the research up until this point when it was not registered and thought you were okay to use the phrase. This is where you need to be careful!

Step 3: Check Trademarks Daily

Once you have done the research and made sure that the phrase is free to use, you are NOT DONE.

If someone comes along at a later date and trademarks that phrase you are using, and it ends up getting registered (even though you were first), chances are, you are about to get a strike on your Merch by Amazon account.

Is this fair?

Of course not!

It is what it is though. We are playing in the Merch by Amazon sandbox, so we have to play by their rules. They are going to remove any shirt that has that phrase if it gets reported or if they do a sweep simply because they want to protect themselves from a lawsuit. Because Amazon wants to protect themselves at all costs, you need to be doing the very same with your account.

You MUST be checking trademarks on the phrases you are using on your shirts each and every day! No exception!

So how do you do this?

One option is to do exactly what we did above in step 2 and check TESS for the trademark to see if it shows up or if anything has changed. Anything above 100 shirts on the platform though, and you will burn out very quickly. In fact, you probably will quit long before then and think to yourself that you will be okay. Do not fall into this trap. I myself have violations for doing this exact thing so I understand the way we talk ourselves out of hard and tedious boring work.

When I was having this issue myself, I knew something had to be done to make sure my account stayed in good standing as my MBA account earns a very healthy income for myself. This is when we released the trademark Alerts Module within Merch Informer.

The system we developed will check the phrases and words you are using on your shirts each and every day. Instead of spending the thousands of hours with big accounts to check every day if the status of a trademark changed, simply enter them into Merch Informer and just check the system once a day. If the status on a trademark changes, it will alert you and give you a chance to take action on your own account to make sure you stay safe.

So how does it work exactly?

The first step is to enter the phrase you are using on your shirt and click on save.

The very first time a trademark is added to the system, it is in line to be checked once every 24 hours. Since you just added it to the system, it will show that it has not been checked yet (this status will change 24 hours later).

If you want to check it right away (it will still check every 24 hours to keep your safe), simply click on the check trademarks button at the top. You will only need to do this ONCE the very first time you put in a phrase.

As you can see, the phrase is not safe to use. You can verify that by going over step 2 and checking TESS. This system is built to alert you of changes so you can keep your account safe.

Now, if you are adding keywords in here that are safe, you will see a green check mark like this:

It will stay a green check mark telling you the mark is safe to use until it is registered. Once it becomes registered, the system will give it a red X so you know that you can look into it further and take down your shirts if you need to.

If you want to ensure you stay safe and grow your business without all the hassle and worry of wasting your time on things like this, make sure you sign up for the FREE 3 day trial of Merch Informer here.

Do Not Let Yourself Fall Into The Trap

Before I let you go, I really want to just reiterate how easy it is to fall into the trap of not checking these trademarks daily. In fact, I see it happen constantly in the Facebook communities where they do all the trademark checks but then do not stay up on them.

This is EXACTLY why we built this module into Merch Informer.

This is where I want to actually apologize for not writing this article earlier. This has been inside Merch Informer for many months now, and yet, I still see screens like this:

  • I wish I found that it was trademarked two weeks ago
  • It was fine when I uploaded my shirts, but not anymore
  • My shirt has been up forever it was one of the first designs I had listed. Super frustrated to get a takedown.

All of these people could have avoided these strikes against their account if they had just followed this article and used the Trademark Alerts module inside Merch Informer which is why I finally had to write this article. I want to make sure that anyone who is taking this business seriously does not endanger their source of income.

Wrapping It up

If you know anyone who keeps getting strikes on their account months after the fact that they checked the trademark system, point them to this article. I personally went from having many violations for this EXACT problem to a whole 0 since we created this system

If you have any questions or concerns, drop them in the comments below.

Keep building and growing your accounts, and until next time!

To your success!

Comments
  • The problem is, merch informer only allows 100 to be saved.. What do people do who have 1000’s of shirts listed..

    • Merch Informer offers different plans for different amount of trademark searches based on server usage. You can see that by going to the pricing tab in the menu at the top of the page.

  • About 10% of my key phrases are flagged as trademark violations, but they are not. It would be nice if we could re-set those red “X”s to green checks that could be tripped back into “X”‘s by the MI software if new, relevant (to the key phrase) trademark information is added to the TESS system. Is that possible?

  • Hi Neil,
    thank you for the interesting post. I was wondering how you handle longer phrases in the trademark checking process.
    For example: You may want to publish a design saying “I Might Look Like I’m Listining To You But In My Head I’m Riding A Bicycle”.
    When putting the whole sentence in the trademark check tool you are very likely to get back “no trademark found”, however, when taking just a part of it (e.g. “In My Head I’m Riding A Bicycle”) it might indeed display an excisting trademark.
    Now, this is a fictual case, but I guess you get the idea.
    Looking forward to hearing your approach!
    Thank you very much.

    • For long phrases like that, I will simply enter in the whole phrase, and then also enter in the split up versions. So in that case, it would take up 3 slots, but I am pretty cautious with my account after running into trademark issues going through months after the fact a year ago.

      • Can we twist the trademarked text like avengers to avengera or something like that, will my design be taken down if we do that? and can we just use avenger as avengers without s, is it ok or will it be taken down

  • Does anyone know if Prior Art pertains to Trademarks? I would expect that if one can prove that the trademarked phrase was in use long before the new trademark was registered then the trademark could be dismissed or permission granted to continue using the trademark based on prior art.

    • Technically I believe that to be correct. The issue we face is that Amazon simply does not care. They are going to protect themselves from any potential lawsuit, and time wasted on us (the little guy), is wasted from expanding their platform so they just yank down the designs instead.

  • Neil, have you consider to alert user via email Instead logging in MI to find out about the threat?
    Thanks for writing this up, I appreciate it.

  • Hi Neil,
    I just put the phrase “Pit Bull” into the trademark checker in Merch Informer and it came back unsafe. When I went to the TESS site to check it, the phrase “Pit Bull” had a few that were registered, but not for anything related to dogs or printing on apparel.
    Would this be ok to use? Obviously people have pit bull shirts on Amazon Merch, but that doesn’t meant they are all playing by the rules.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Yes it would. The trademark module is to give you a heads up of any trademark that has gone through. Then you should of course go check TESS. The reason we do this is because even though a trademark went through and it may not be for clothing, it still depends on what the company is and how they are using it. For example, if you are talking about Apple the company, they might not have a trademark for clothing, but clearly you cannot use that on a shirt. We want to make sure customers are protected so the trademark alerts are more of a heads up to go dig deeper.

  • Neil,
    Violations can occur due to the use of a phrase in the bullets and description too, not just on the shirt itself. Typically these are much longer, especially the description. Do you have any recommendations on checking these longer entries for issues? Do you just enter the entire bullet point/description or do you somehow break it down into shorter phrases?

      • The problem is, how do you break it down? Sometimes a multi-word phrase does not return any entries in TESS but using one of the words in the phrase by itself does. For example, VFW Halls does not return any results in TESS but VFW does and is in fact, registered for shirts.
        This same issue can apply to phrases appearing on shirts. It’s just harder to deal with in the longer bullet points and descriptions.

        • This is the tricky part. I generally do all my research ahead of time, and see what is already registered, OR what might be registered in the future. If I see anything pending, I will throw that into the trademark alerts. This gets easier as you get more experience with all of this.

  • Hi Neil,
    When entering a phrase into ME the TM notification system, do we only have to check the entire phrase or text on the shirt or do we need to break it down to sub-phrases? For example, my shirt says “This Girl Loves Pizza”. Do I have do a separate check for “this girl loves” and another one for “this girl loves pizza”? What about if there are 2 or 3 phrases on the shirt?
    These were issues confusing me.
    Thanks

    • I would enter in the multiple variations if you are worried about it. In that case with that example, I think it would actually be a good idea to enter multiple phrases thus breaking down the main tagline to make sure if anything changes, you can quickly identify it.

  • Hi, Neil:
    Some time ago I wanted to write this and I take advantage today that you have touched on the subject to tell it. I think the trademark page (Merch Informer) does not work correctly. The application signals words as registered that are not registered in the USPTO. I’ll give you a couple of easy examples but I’ve found many others:
    a) The word: FBI. If you put it in the search engine it indicates it as registered and yet I do not find it registered in the USPTO.
    b) The word: SWAT. If you put it in the search engine it indicates it as registered and yet I do not find it registered in the USPTO either.
    What can you tell me about this? Many thanks in advance!

    • What we do is display anything with a serial number and a registration number and flag it. The reason we do this is because even though a trademark might not be registered for clothing, it would still not be a good idea to make a shirt on it. An example would be the company Apple. Even though they may not hold a trademark for clothing, you clearly cannot enter this on a shirt on Merch as it would get dinged right away. The trademark module is more of a heads up to go check TESS if any status changes. If you have checked and it is all good, then you should be fine.

  • Hey Neil…..I have been using the trademark check in your program …thanks for that!……little bit off topic but it is safe to have more than one merch account?

    • Only one merch account per person is what their TOS says. You can have multiple in the household though as long as they have different names and banking information.

  • Hey Neil,
    love your page. Currently binge reading all of your articles. I have a quick question regarding trademarks. I wanted to create a shirt with “World’s Okayest Guitar Player” but there is a trademark on “World’s Okayest”. Do you still think it is safe to publish the shirt? What do you do when a part of your design text is trademarked?
    Thank you in advance for your help and keep creating this awesome content!
    Kind regards

    • You will need to take a look at how the mark is used and what category. If it is for clothing, then I would stay away from it!

      • Thank you very much for your reply. The trademark is used for clothing, so I will stay away from it.

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