Two shady Amazon get-rich-quick-style gurus and their companies’ marketing and selling courses for the Amazon platform are coming under fire from Amazon itself for trademark infringement.
Amazon is taking to task two gurus that are using Amazon’s trademarks without their permission. Typically Amazon won’t target someone if the trademark usage is of fair use, but I imagine these two received special attention from the army of Amazon lawyers because of the woefully lacking reputation these two groups carry.
It’s worth pointing out that these lawsuits not only go after the misuse of Amazon’s trademarks but the relation to the misuse with the perceived lack of value and misleading information the educators provide.
…persuade unwitting entrepreneurs to spend thousands of dollars on seminars and training programs of little, if any, value…
The first target is Prime Global Source, LLC, and a host of other companies that they believe have connections to this operation. The lawsuit, filed on October 18, 2019 in The United States District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, alleges that the defendant used elements of the Amazon Prime trademark inappropriately and “whose purpose is to persuade unwitting entrepreneurs to spend thousands of dollars on seminars and training programs of little, if any, value. Defendants accomplish this objective in part by misleading consumers into believing that they are affiliated with Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) by using logos that are confusingly similar or nearly identical to Amazon’s distinctive trademarks (“Amazon Marks”).”
The full text of the lawsuit can be read here (pdf).
Specifically, Amazon is concerned with the likeness of PGS’ logo and other branding usages to the Amazon Smile mark, the curved arrow-line mark that represents a smile and is implemented in several of Amazon’s trademarks.
As of this writing, PGS has not updated its homepage to remove the logo and other marks cited in the lawsuit (image below).
And if it couldn’t get any more intense, the lawsuit also features student complaints, saying things like:
[after] securing nearly $22,500 from me, PGS became unresponsive…
I paid $1,495 for help to create my legal entity…after they charged my credit card, they disappeared…I learned later that [the coach that sold me the membership] was not even a PGS employee
I bought thousands of dollars worth of inventory from one of their wholesalers…they still haven’t delivered the products [after six months].
The second target is OnlineSecrets.com. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle on October 18, 2019, targets Online Secrets, Inc., Michael Gazzola, Matthew Behdjou et al., because it used the Amazon logo directly on its landing page, as seen in the image below. You can get a copy of the lawsuit here (pdf; the image is on page 12).
The “secrets” imparted to students involve violating Amazon’s third-party seller agreements through the use of fake product reviews…
The lawsuit opens up by alleging that the defendant(s) “have exploited Amazon’s brand to perpetrate a widespread get-rich-quick scheme that revolves around seeking to fake and inducing others to fake, product reviews, and other dishonest techniques that violate Amazon’s third-party seller agreements. Through deceptive marketing, Defendants use high-pressure sales tactics to swindle Amazon third-party sellers (or prospective sellers) into purchasing Defendants’ services.”
Pieces of the next paragraph punch much harder, though. Amazon alleges that the “Defendants accomplish their scam in part by duping consumers into believing that they are affiliated with Amazon by using Amazon’s distinctive trademarks…consumers spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on various programs that purportedly teach them the “secrets” to selling on Amazon. The “secrets” imparted to students involve violating Amazon’s third-party seller agreements through the use of fake product reviews and manipulation of search results to artificially drive traffic to their products.”
The lawsuit mentions domain names that contain the word “amazon” directly in the name such
amazontrainingapplication.com At the time of this writing, the onlinesecrets.com web site appears much different, likely in response to the lawsuit.
Part of the scheme, as Amazon states, involved course mates viewing each other’s products and leaving reviews in an exchange-like fashion, after receiving the product for free or at a steep discount.
The lawsuit goes also covers the amount of money the defendants sold their courses for by saying that “[when] Gazzola and Behdjou were operating Amazon Secrets, they charged students $3,999 for a three-month course. Online Secrets currently charges students $4,997 for a three-month program (the “Amazon Inner Circle” package), $6,997 for a six-month program (the “Amazon Inner Circle In It to Win It!”), or $9,997 for a one-year program (the “Amazon Inner Circle Ultra-Coaching Program”).”
We can even trace this nonsense back to January 2019, where The Atlantic ran an article about the very same people Amazon is suing. In the article, the now-defendants make the bold statement that “anyone who loses money simply isn’t following their advice.”
In the original Atlantic article, Amazon didn’t provide comment on the matter but said it works closely with the FTC. Based on what we’re seeing now, it looks like Amazon’s comment is a strong one.
It is often a point of serious contention for those providing education in the Amazon selling space when it comes to the price of education. Some advocate for selling for what it’s worth (which is often massive amounts of money), and some land on the spectrum south of that, even including at no cost. This won’t be the last time we hear about an e-commerce guru peddling their wares and being the target of frustration and complaints about not upholding their end of the deal.
My opinion is this: there’s no amount of information out there that’s worth five figures. Every course maker will likely be offering variations of the same information. There are no dirty secrets to striking it rich in the Amazon marketplace. Selling and being successful requires a lot of hard work, a lot of time, and some money. Join some Facebook groups, comb YouTube, hell, even send me an email (I won’t charge you a penny). Whatever you do, don’t spend $9,000 on a course. If you do, and things start falling apart (like in the complaints earlier in this post), charge it back. Otherwise, you’ll probably never see that money, again, and have nothing to show for it.
(special thanks to Domain Name Wire for the original stories)