Third-party sellers on Amazon have multiplied as fast as Jeff Bezos’s billions, and are challenging the very idea of what it means to be a brand—or to market products in general. A recent New York Times article recounts (in exhausting detail) how these sellers and their random and sometimes bizarre brand names are changing the face of retail and overwhelming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

All Your Brands Belong To Nertpow

What do unisex beanie hats, self-locking cable zip ties, and reusable sandwich bags have in common? They’re all offered on Amazon under the trendy “Nertpow” label, and with free next-day shipping courtesy of Amazon Prime. With the global giant as a willing distribution partner, these cross-border e-commerce “companies” have flooded the market with basically brandless products that rely not at all on traditional marketing, but almost entirely on gaming Amazon’s algorithm and (sometimes doctored) star ratings and reviews.

This has legitimate sellers incensed. As one seller says on the Amazon Seller Forum, “One seller…many names…many accounts…many so called trademarked brands. Whyyyyyyyyyy???”

USPTO Says What The Sell?!?

Things really started getting bYwxbYjb (<< yep, that’s seriously trademarked) way back in 2017, when the Amazon Brand Registry began requiring applicants to supply a trademark. Created in 2015 to help sellers “protect your intellectual property and create an accurate and trusted experience for customers on Amazon,” it was created in response to a host of problems including counterfeit items by third-party sellers.

Since then, the USPTO has been swamped with swathes of trademark applications by Chinese e-commerce concerns. Fraud (like photoshopping products that don’t yet exist) is rampant. “A substantial proportion of applications originating in China include fraudulent specimens of use,” said New York University Law professor Barton Beebe while testifying before a U.S. Senate committee in December. And the sheer number of applications contributes to the ongoing problem of trademark depletion. Too many sellers, not enough unique names.

Get more from theCLIKK