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Amazon has Food Huggers covered when it comes to IP protection

"Amazon has a continuously evolving toolkit that enables brand owners like myself to protect our companies and our customers and stay one step ahead of bad actors.”
Adrienne McNicholas

Finding ways to reduce waste

Adrienne McNicholas’s lifelong dislike for wasting food and her love of the environment meant she was always brainstorming ways to keep produce fresh, without resorting to cling wrap and other single-use plastics.

None of the ideas seemed quite right until, one day, she realized the solution was right in front of her.

"Mother Nature has already designed a really good system to protect produce and keep it fresh,” she says. “It’s natural peel or skin. All we had to do was focus on the part of the fruit or vegetable that was exposed."

After having her lightbulb moment, Adrienne and her co-founder, Michelle Ivankovic, started experimenting with silicone to try and create a replacement skin for the unprotected sections of partly-used produce. A few iterations later, they'd nailed down their product and Food Huggers was born.
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Kickstarting a food storage revolution

With her prototypes in hand, Adrienne took to Kickstarter to fund her new venture. While the campaign was, in Adrienne's words, "super successful," it was also the start of her struggles with bad actors who took note of her idea and copied it right away.

Her excitement at hitting Food Huggers' funding goal quickly turned to dismay. Bad actors had created online listings that capitalized on her hard work.

"They used our photos, our logos, our video . . . everything," she says. "They just stripped all the content from our Kickstarter page and put it on their own listing."
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Sending bad actors' dishes back to the kitchen

Determined not to let bad actors ride her coattails, Adrienne got to work protecting her brand.

Food Huggers registered their trademarks, patented their product, and copyrighted their photography. Adrienne also put a lot of effort into tracking down counterfeit listings online. But many of the tools available to her weren't straightforward to use, and taking down counterfeits took time.

Things changed dramatically in 2017 when Amazon launched Amazon Brand Registry—a free program for brands that gives them the ability to manage and protect their intellectual property rights in the Amazon store.

For Food Huggers, joining Brand Registry activated proactive protections that stopped infringing listings and inaccurate content. Food Huggers could also access tools like Report a Violation, which makes it possible to report suspected intellectual property infringements to Amazon.

“The Report a Violation tool has a structured, user-friendly, and effective infringement removal process,” says Adrienne.

Crucially, the Report a Violation tool made the process of taking down listings that infringed upon Food Huggers’ patents, trademarks, and copyrights much simpler and quicker. Using the tool also drove additional automated protections that helped stop infringements in the first place.

“It became so easy to report infringements,” Adrienne says. “I could search for our brand name, select multiple listings and indicate how they infringe our IP, and Amazon would take them down.”

“Amazon is continuously evolving its brand protections so they're always one step ahead of bad actors.”

Adrienne McNicholas

Patent disputes resolved

After finding success using Brand Registry’s Report a Violation tool, the team at Food Huggers heard about Amazon Patent Evaluation Express. The program, which is available through the Report a Violation tool, is a patent evaluation program that uses neutral third-party patent experts to review utility patent infringement cases.

Settling a utility patent infringement case through a patent lawsuit in the US can sometimes cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, with an average time-to-trial of 2.4 years. Amazon Patent Evaluation Express takes an average of 7 weeks, and the decision is automatically enforced in Amazon’s stores.

Participation in an evaluation requires both parties to deposit $4,000 with the neutral evaluator. The evaluator reviews submissions and determines whether the reported listings infringe the patent. The winning participant receives their $4,000 deposit back.

What Adrienne loves best about the program, she says, is that it is a cost-effective way to stop these types of bad actors.

"For us," she says, "it's absolutely worth the effort to protect our patents. So we are more than happy to initiate the process and pay the required deposit to protect our brand and customers.”
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"Project Zero in one word: Empowering"

Adrienne's proficiency with Report a Violation didn't just help curb bad actors. It also opened the door to next-level counterfeit protection tools.

"Because of the high accuracy rate we achieved with Report a Violation," she says, "We were invited to join Project Zero and we signed up right away."

Brands enrolled in Project Zero can take counterfeit listings down themselves, without the need to contact Amazon. Food Huggers’ accurate submissions also drive Amazon’s feedback loops to block violations automatically—before they impact customers.

Project Zero has made it all but impossible for bad actors to get away with counterfeit listings. "If somebody lists their product as Food Huggers and uses our photographs,” Adrienne says, “we flag it through Project Zero and it goes down immediately."

Adrienne says she would highly recommend Project Zero to other eligible brands.

“Project Zero is an amazing program. Being able to immediately take down content that infringes my intellectual property rights has allowed me to better protect my customers and my company.”

Adrienne McNicholas

Beating counterfeiters benefits everyone

Food Huggers’ brand protection strategy has come a long way since their launch, and their efforts have led to improved reviews and strong sales.

But Adrienne isn’t about to rest on her laurels. If anything, she plans to redouble her efforts to make sure customers always get authentic Food Huggers products. “If you allow your brand to be copied," she says, "it encourages others to do it too. Counterfeits invite more counterfeits."

Adrienne believes working with Amazon will be instrumental to Food Huggers' success moving forward.
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