Daimler AG filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Monday for trademark infringement, design patent infringement, false advertising, unfair competition, and other complaints for allegedly selling replica Mercedes wheels that were not authorized or sold by Daimler.
The case is interesting because it claims not only were the alleged knockoffs available for sale on Amazon, but were actually sold by Amazon itself. But don’t expect all third-party merchants to feel sympathetic to the marketplace – many are just as frustrated with Amazon over the issue of knockoffs and unfair competition.
According to the April 11th complaint, Daimler AG made test purchases of wheels under the brand name Wheel Replicas on August 31, 2015, and on October 8, 2015, that it says were advertised and sold by Amazon and shipped from Amazon Fulfillment Services at 1600 Worldwide Blvd., Hebron KY 41048.
“All automobile wheels purchased and received from Amazon were inspected to confirm that they are not genuine products manufactured or authorized by Daimler, its subsidiaries, or licensees. The inspection of the purchased items confirmed that the items Amazon advertised and sold were in fact not Daimler-authorized or Daimler-manufactured products,” according to the lawsuit.
GeekWire says the case could serve as a new test of Amazon’s liability for counterfeit goods sold on its site, calling it “an issue with wide-ranging financial and legal implications for the company.”
Big brands aren’t the only ones who say Amazon has a counterfeit problem – third-party merchants of all sizes are increasingly complaining of having their listings and their branded products duplicated without authorization, and sellers from China are usually blamed.
Amazon requires sellers to make test purchases of items as part of the process of reporting listings. Some sellers say that’s unreasonable and say they are unable to keep up with the counterfeiters who they say are using software programs to scrape the site.
In one twist, merchants can sometimes get into legal trouble due to an issue known as commingling. “Commingling your inventory allows Amazon to treat your inventory as being combined with the inventory that Amazon or other sellers have of the same kind and condition,” Amazon explains on its website. “When someone purchases an item from your inventory we won’t physically distinguish your inventory from that of other sellers. This enables us to process customer orders more efficiently.”
In one notable case, a seller using Amazon FBA to store and fulfill his orders said an Intellectual Property owner made test purchases of his products and found them to be counterfeit; he claimed Amazon had stored his legitimate items along with counterfeit goods from other FBA sellers in its warehouse.
Brands are growing increasingly frustrated over the problem of counterfeiting on online marketplaces. This month, the NFL banned marketplace sales of licensed goods by putting the onus on licensees.
You can read more about the lawsuit on GeekWire, which includes a copy of the complaint filed on Monday.