Get Sued Because Your ECommerce Outranks Any Trademarked Competitors | Read This Solution



u/Hehfjskandyrhsna

We own a store. We outrank some of the brands we carry for their brand name. Former wholesale partner now threatening to sue us for outranking them.

Sorry for long title and obvious burner.
We own an online store. We have brand pages created for all of the brands we carry to highlight their brand and product on our marketplace.
Recently, a brand got mad and has threatened suit if we don't delete their page off our site. We sold their products happily for 1.5 years, making them over $20K USD. Abrubtly they tell us that consultants have told them we are hurting them by outranking them, so they no longer want to work together.
We have marked all products out of stock for our own business needs as we can't accept payment for goods we no longer sell. This is not good enough for them and as mentioned want all content deleted.
TL;DR: Our store brand pages for brands we carry outranks their own website. Now they are threatening to sue us if we don't delete the page. You can't be sued for being good at Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can you? Shouldn't they sue Google? lol
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nolwag
I'm not sure there is much you can do , if you are no longer selling their products then you no longer have the rights to advertise those products either. Why would you want to continue ranking for a product you no longer sell anyways?
anberlinz
There's nothing they can do to you, I think. It's like trying to sue Wikipedia for outranking for a lot of stuff.
BUT I think that you should make it clear that you don't work with them anymore, and not only mark it as "out of stock", because it may sound like you still work w/ them and just ran out of stock.
ravepeacefully
Personally, I'd keep it just how it is. People will come to your site looking for the product, you're out of stock, they will maybe buy a different product. f*ck that company, I wish more people would do what you're doing so people would stop pretending content marketing is a waste of money. I have to rip money out of some of my clients hands when in reality they should be thanking me as I make them far more then they pay me.
willkode
two weeks ago I sat in a meeting with a clients attorney about this very subject. The answer was no, you can't be sued for out ranking someone.

Haroldtr
In the US, you can be sued for anything. Whether you'll win that lawsuit or not is a completely different question. Also, if you are using any of their content or trademarked brand name, you will probably lose.

pinkygonzales
This is the correct answer.
meatcheeseandbun
Understood, but people go to his page expecting to be able to buy a certain product and then find out they can't buy that product.
Xiaoming01
There must be a reasonable basis, there are a lot of company who outrank their competitors on a daily basis. Is the court going to take all these lawsuit?
Haroldtr
There doesn't need to necessarily be a reasonable basis to file a lawsuit. If it's deemed frivolous, then a judge might throw it out.
Either way, as unlikely as it seems, the response to your question is yes. If every company decided to sue their competitors, the court would have to take all of the lawsuits.
It's important to note though that in the US 'courts' don't 'take' lawsuits. They need to be filed be a plaintiff and only then will a 'court' take it.

jrobthehuman
I am not a lawyer, but you definitely can't be sued for outranking someone on Google. But, if you are using any copyrighted material like logos and they are cancelling a licensing agreement, they may try to come at you for that. That may come in the form of a cease and desist rather than a lawsuit, but still.
jakethedogo
Do you have cross-sells for those out-of-stock products? Or are people immediately bouncing once they see you aren't carrying them? If its bringing in traffic and converting to cross-sales, I can see the appeal for keeping the pages up.
They can't sue for SEO ranks. Anyone can write whatever they want and rank as high as Google will let them for it. There might however be a gray area around copyright infringement. Do these brand pages have their logos, product images, or marketing materials they previously provided? They can probably easily send in some Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy (DMCA) takedowns through Google, and you'll have those pages delisted unless you contest, which would then officially bring the issue to court/lawsuit level.
I'd definitely switch 'Out of Stock' to 'Discontinued' so you aren't giving the impression that you're still a retailer/distributor of their products.
And if you do decide to play it safe and take the pages down, make sure to redirect the external URLs to other relevant pages. No sense in letting those links profiles die.
Also, their consultants are dumb. Cutting off a retailer who knows how to sell their product just to gain a slightly higher organic rank? Ridiculous.

LopsidedNinja

Anyone can write whatever they want and rank as high as Google will let them for it.

Worse post I've seen in this sub Reddit in a while.

boof_kavanaugh
Without elaborating, your comment is equally useless
LopsidedNinja
How about I write a post saying your product explodes when it plugs in, and one blew up and melted my face?
Its completely untrue, but I'm completely fine if I can write it then rank it?

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AnotherSEOGuy
You can't be sued for outranking, you can get sued for using their likeness and any marks that are registered by them, they would usually have to Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy (DMCA) you first which, if you replied to (took down the shit they complained about), wouldn't lead to a case.
When doing shit like this, try to look at where your imagery comes from, if it's from them directly, you're overstepping the mark, if you've taken a picture of their products yourselves, you'll generally be fine and they can do literally nothing. They are not within their right to sue simply for outranking, it's a search engine with an algorithm not an advertising platform where you're directly bidding on their keywords (and even if you were, they'd have to complain to Google with their trademark and your ads would get taken down, not sued).
Not a Lawyer, don't take the above as legal advice, etc etc! GL, sounds like you're one step close to acquisition! ;)
daviswbaer
Tell them to get better at Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
IgorAMG
I am not a lawyer and this is not intended to replace a real lawyer's advice.
Anyone can be sued for anything, and deeper pockets almost always win.
Remove stock from brand pages. Cordially let them know you don't control Google's algorithm, but you've removed all of their products since they no longer wish to have a mutually beneficial relationship with you. Tell them if they change their mind, you'll be happy to bring their inventory back in your stock.
creativesite8792
Others who have been dealing with the same thing have told me that you cannot be sued for doing a better job that their own SEO people.
However.
If they wanted to be nasty, they could cause other issues. Do you have a formal agreement with them? Or at least an email from a senior person inside their firm that spells out your business arraingement?
If not, you might want to think seriously about moving on to other pastures.
A cranky product source can make headaches for you that you probably don't need.
Just my thoughts.
wowcheckered
Tell them to call Google's SEO Hotline.
Levi_Bloom
Sadly, if you're in the US they can sue you for pretty much anything. With a good lawyer, they might find something valid. Even if you're not doing anything wrong, they could waste your money by dragging out a court case. I think it's a lot more dangerous than some people realize. You need to ask yourself if it's worth it to fight.
They probably know they can't beat Google in a lawsuit (heck they can't even rank for their brand name) but they might think they have a shot against you in court.
Budnacho
No joke, I've put millions into the company I work for doing the exact same thing. What you need to realize is that, generally speaking, distributors and reps sites suck SEO wise. The reps call and whine to corporate and what you are experiencing is the result. The number one thing to remember is that right now, its a political and not sales-based decision..
If you have SEO software, do 2 basic scans of duplicate keywords for both sites and send them to the brand that is complaining. Explain to them that you will be more than willing to change your pages if they are willing to lose the traffic and sales you have generated for them as when you shut down their reps site will immediately have to pick up the slack (which we all know it wont). If they say they don't care…drop them like a hot potato…then in 6 mos call back and ask how their doing. If worse, offer to rebuild/resub the pages for a better profit ratio…
Option #2 depending on the widget's overall cost/profit ratio. If it's extremely high (we're talking 1,000.00's here) is to call the head of sales and offer to send them all the leads you get from outside that you cant do anything with "as a gift" to them.
I have watched dozens of corp companies jump at this deal and screw-over their "official" reps…in the end they care about sales only, a rep is as only as good as his sales. If you are the one performing now, you have the leverage…use it.
RedBanana99
This is hilarious Giggles in British
In England we would get laughed out of the lawyers reception.
If it were me I'd hire my counsel and agree to go to court for the hell of it and countersue for loss of earnings/time off work THEN blog about it on my site!
You really can't make this up can you?
trallan
They won't sue you because you outranked them though. If they are legal owner of the brand and if they are asking you to remove the name of their brand or brand's page, you will need to do it. This is all about the brand name… If you haven't made a proper deal with them about this issue, they can sue you. I believe you need to speak about this to attorney instead of asking here. If you signed an agreement, you should also provide those documents him.
Self thoughts: I don't think what they have done is right. They have made more than 20k with the help of you and all of sudden you are getting threatened with sue. This is really idiotic. Actually I also own a company, if I could earn enough with you, I wouldn't give a shit to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or website at all. I believe those guys are not clever enough.
gundeeep
READ IT CAREFULLY : Option 1 : First of all try to make a deal with them that you will redirect from your product page to their website and according to traffic sent or according to purchases done via your traffic, a deal can be done. (If they agree ask me in detail how to set that up) Option 2: If they don't agree to make any kind of deal, then 301 redirect that page to your another product page (make sure you do it to the product which is a good competitor to them) This way they will realise that they have lost a good partner. Eventually you will loose ranking for their product, but there is no other way. Option 3: If you think you can make a deal in future then, don't delete the page just deindex it for sometime. Option 4: You can also do canonical to the product category page. Example: the product page is abc . Com/products/cream you can canonical this to your abc . Com /products
weaver_on_the_web
This post struck me, as my own business sounds remarkably similar to yours including in scale, and similarly has brand pages that rank higher than the brands themselves.
Fortunately we've never had any issue with their being (stupidly) jealous. They're happy with the orders. And your suppliers' response has been stupid in the extreme. They should have been seeking to emulate you, not ostracise you.
Having said that, I'm not honestly very comfortable with your continuing to trade on their brand name AFTER they've dumped you, however daft that decision may be. I don't really know about the legalities. But ethically I feel it's a little suspect. Sorry if that's not what you want to hear.
LopsidedNinja
You need to step away from Reddit.
You're getting a lot of horrid advice from people who have no idea of the specifics of your situation. And those specifics matter.
Go speak to a qualified solicitor for an hour.

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