German footwear manufacturer Birkenstock went after Amazon Friday for allowing sales of cheap, knock-off versions of the iconic, hippie sandals.
AFP reports that the Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert says the online retail giant is complicit in the alleged intellectual theft resulting in low-cost versions of the shoes selling right alongside the much more expensive originals:
“The truth is that Amazon makes money with these fakes,” Reichert told Spiegel news weekly. “As far we’re concerned, Amazon is an accomplice.”
Birkenstock was founded in the 18th century and has doggedly protected their design trademarks over the decades. The German company announced this week that they were pulling their product from Amazon’s European websites starting next month. That move comes almost a year after Birkenstock pulled their flip-flops from the US Amazon market.
“If you sell dodgy merchandise on your market place, you have to answer for that,” said Reichert.
It’s an interesting dilemma for Amazon considering the various international markets in which they find themselves operating. They certainly wouldn’t allow knock-off iPhones or bootlegged Hollywood films to be sold in China as that would be a direct and obvious infringement of intellectual property.
And yet, they seem to be just fine with the idea of bootlegged sandals.
In fact, their own search engine allows for and prompts a search for “Birkenstock knock offs.” (see image above)
That seems to support Birkenstock’s claim of “complicity” on Amazon’s part. Amazon, according to AFP, has said in the past that is has “zero tolerance” for fraud. It’s unclear if that “zero tolerance for fraud” policy extends to any newspapers also owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.