Amazon Ventures into Legal Services
Amazon, a once-small online bookstore that has expanded into many other well-established industries, is now trying its hand in legal services.
The world’s largest online retailer has created the Amazon IP Accelerator, a service that connects small- and medium-sized businesses to law firms that provide intellectual property law services at a set competitive price.1. As Amazon has already offered sellers access to its own services in accounting, shipping, tax, and compliance, this move should come as little surprise to individuals who are following the company closely.2.
According to Amazon, the goal of the IP Accelerator is to help growing businesses and their respective brands obtain intellectual property rights and brand protection more quickly and efficiently within the vast network of Amazon stores.3 The IP Accelerator connects these businesses with a select group of Amazon-vetted law firms that specialize in providing IP services.4 The services these law firms provide range from researching brands to ensure no other business is using them to filing trademark applications to secure protection.5 In addition to trademark-related services, these chosen law firms also provide the businesses help with copyright registrations, design patents, and offer advice on broader intellectual property strategies.6
By using Amazon’s IP Accelerator, businesses are not only easily connected to law firms, but are also able to access Amazon Brand Registry as soon as a trademark application is filed, as long as the application is filed using one of Amazon’s selected firms.7 Amazon Brand Registry gives businesses greater control over their brand’s product listings on Amazon and is equipped with automated protections that proactively remove suspected infringing or inaccurate content and alert the brand holder.8
Providing growing businesses with an easy and accessible way to obtain trademark, copyright, or patent protection in our current innovation-motivated economy can be essential to the survival of a growing business. The Amazon IP Accelerator lowers transaction costs by offering small to medium sized businesses professional IP services at a discounted rate. This in turn, reduces informational asymmetry since more businesses would have access to similar resources and levels the playing field. Consumers and businesses would not be the only ones benefitting from the IP Accelerator, as it would likely allow Amazon to reduce some of the brand protection and counterfeit problems that have plagued the online retail giant since its rise.9
Of course, a move like this does not come without its concerns. Amazon, an already impactful participant in the U.S. trademark registration system, gains even more leverage. Giving businesses the opportunity to join the Brand Registry without having to wait for the USPTO to issue a registration will likely entice growing businesses to use Amazon’s program instead of going through the USPTO.10 Also, by providing a list of approved firms to businesses that would like to use the IP Accelerator, Amazon gives the chosen firms a significant advantage over other law firms in the IP services industry.11 Some law firms may find it hard to compete with the accessibility and lowered price rate of the firms provided through the IP Accelerator.12 These concerns along with possible antitrust issues may raise the eyebrows of anti-corporate activists.
While there are obvious concerns about one of the largest corporations in the world getting even bigger with its entrance into the legal services industry and the affect this might have on law firms, it is hard to deny the benefit the Amazon IP Accelerator can provide to growing businesses looking to establish and protect their brand at a lower cost.