As trademark owners look for new and effective ways to protect their valuable brands, many owners have turned to Amazon's popular Brand Registry program – a program that gives enrollees access to brand protection tools that provide trademark owners with more control in fighting counterfeiters and infringers, as well as tools that are intended to enhance brand visibility and exposure on the platform. Such tools are essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers have increasingly chosen to make purchases on e-commerce platforms. Amazon saw its sales increase by 38% in 2020.1
However, entry into Amazon's Brand Registry program requires owning a trademark registration. This requirement may be a contributing factor to the rise in foreign trademark applications submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the past few years.2 Notably, many of these applications are accompanied by fraudulent specimens in an attempt to satisfy the requirement that the goods be "used-in-commerce."3 In fact, a review of applications and specimens submitted in 2017 that originated in China and covered goods solely in the apparel class found that approximately two-thirds of these use-based applications included fraudulent specimens.4
To combat the rise of fraudulent specimens, the USPTO has introduced a variety of policies and measures over the past few years. In 2018, the USPTO launched a pilot program for the public to report fraudulent specimens to a dedicated email address monitored by the USPTO. The pilot reporting program was an effective way for brand owners to flag problematic specimens and obtain a refusal in that trademark application without incurring the time and costs associated with filing a formal opposition. However, the USPTO discontinued the pilot program on February 16, 2021.
As a replacement for the pilot program, trademark owners can now report fraudulent specimens to the USPTO by submitting a traditional letter of protest. Trademark owners will be charged a $50 filing fee for the letter of protest. Even with the $50 filing fee, filing a letter of protest is still a cost-effective way for brand owners to flag fraudulent specimens without filing a formal notice of opposition, which carries a $600 filing fee.
Please contact Sarah Brooks, Marjorie Norman, or Alicia Sharon for more information on the discontinued USPTO fraudulent specimen pilot reporting program, on filing letters of protest, or to discuss a trademark enforcement strategy to protect your brand.
 See Press Release, Amazon (February 2, 2021), https://ir.aboutamazon.com/news-release/news-release- details/2021/Amazon.com-Announces-Fourth-Quarter-Results/default.aspx.
 Other factors have also contributed to the growth of trademark applications submitted to the USPTO. For example, subsidies, government mandates, bad-faith trademark applications, and defensive countermeasures have also contributed to the increase in trademark applications submitted by Chinese applicants. See United States Patent and Trademark Office: Trademarks and Patents in China: The impact of non-market factors on filing trends and IP systems (Jan. 2021), https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/USPTO-TrademarkPatentsInChina.pdf.
 Importantly, there are other reasons besides fraud that foreign applicants often include improper specimens with their applications, including, among others, a confusion over what "use-in-commerce" means or that the requisite use must be in the United States.