What is Trademark Infringement?

Understanding how to report trademark infringement is important for any trademark holder. Infringement of a trademark happens when someone uses a trademark or service mark in connection with or on their services or goods in an authorized manner. In order to qualify as infringement, the use of the mark must be likely to cause deception, confusion, or a mistake about the services' or goods' source.

How to Report Trademark Infringement

If you believe your trademark is being infringed upon, the next step is filing a lawsuit or other civil action in a federal or state court. This lawsuit will for trademark infringement. Most owners sue for this offense in federal court. If the plaintiff does file in state court, the defendant might be able to request a move of the case to federal court. In order to prove that a trademark has been infringed upon, there must be clear proof of how the mark has been used, establishing ownership. Ownership can be established through registering the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or through the use of the mark over time.

The owner of a trademark who takes legal action for infringement is responsible for proving that the person using the mark has likely created confusion among brand consumers. Confusion among consumers often happens when buyers don't understand which products or services are provided by a specific company. If two separate companies are using similar trademarks, customers may confuse which products come from which brand. In this example, a USPTO-registered trademark will typically win a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Along with the option to claim likely confusion, the owner of a trademark also has the right to claim “dilution” of a trademark. When making this claim, the owner asserts that their mark is famous and that the existence of a similar mark lessens the original mark's value or strength by using it on something objectionable or distasteful or by blurring the distinctiveness of the mark.

Experienced trademark lawyers will consider the circumstances of each case and provide their opinion on the strength and validity of the infringement claims. The only way to report trademark infringement is by filing a lawsuit. 

Upon proving that a trademark has been infringed upon, there are several ways to rectify the situation:

  • Issuance of a court order requiring the infringer to discontinue use of the mark
  • Requiring payment back to the trademark owner, including any profits retained by the infringer, legal costs, and damages sustained during the use of the mark
  • Issuance of a court order requiring the infringer to pay any legal fees incurred by the mark owner
  • Issuance of a court order requiring the infringer to destroy and/or forfeit all products that include the mark 

A lawsuit that is not successful may occur if the defendant has a stronger defense, the trademark is found not to be infringed upon, or the trademark owner isn't entitled to legal action due to other circumstances. 

Links to Online Marketplaces' Infringement Policies and Reporting

Most big companies have information about their trademark infringement policies available through their websites. For example, AliProtect is Alibaba's program for reviewing content that has been infringed upon. The program includes specific steps in a flowchart for those holding trademark protection. In order to submit a claim through AliProtect, you must have an account on Alibaba.

Amazon's website includes a complaint form for trademark holders and their agents. This online form can be submitted directly to Amazon if the trademark holder believes that content listed on the site infringes on their rights. Once the complaint is submitted, Amazon may start an investigation. Before you can report any infringing content on eBay, you must register at the Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) of the mark. Information about registering as the VeRO is available on their website.

The popular homemade goods website, Etsy, also has its own dedicated agent who is responsible for managing notifications and procedures related to trademark infringement. After receiving a complaint, the agent will launch an investigation. The main courses of action are removing or blocking the listing or disabling the account that posted the infringing content.

If you need help with how to report trademark infringement, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.