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Daimler sues Amazon over alleged wheel knockoffs

German automaker Daimler AG sued U.S. e-commerce powerhouse Amazon for infringing on its intellectual property rights by advertising, selling, and profiting on Mercedes-Benz wheel replicas.

Yes, Alibaba isn’t the only e-commerce giant contending with counterfeits. In the lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Daimler AG accuses the U.S. e-commerce retailer, Amazon, of infringing on Daimler’s intellectual property rights by advertising and selling Mercedes-Benz wheel replicas and profiting from the distinct luxury brand.

Not just a fulfillment issue
The suit specifically accuses Amazon of infringing U.S. Patent Numbers D570,760 and D542,211 and seeks to block the retailer from continuing to sell the wheel replicas, as well as damages for the alleged infringement up to triple the statutory amount, or alternatively, damages of US$2 MN per counterfeit sold by Amazon in relation to the products at issue.

The case is particularly compelling because the alleged knockoffs were actually sold by Amazon itself. Daimler AG apparently made test purchases of wheels under the brand name Wheel Replicas on August 31, 2015, and 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.

Daimler also made a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last week. The complaint names 12 retailers, including Amazon, and calls for a general exclusion order, cease-and-desist orders, and a bond to be imposed, during a 60-day presidential review period, on products infringing approximately 30 trademarks and 20 patents.

A test of liability
GeekWire says the case could serve as a new test of Amazon's liability for counterfeit goods sold on its site. Last year Amazon won a similar case against pillowcase maker Milo & Gabby — whose ruling, incidentally, is currently under appeal.

The central question in that case was whether Amazon was responsible for infringement by a third-party merchant using its site. In that case, the bogus pillowcases were identified as sold by a third-party merchant, but fulfilled by Amazon. At the time, the jury ruled that Amazon had technically not made an “offer to sell” — the legal requirement to hold the company liable for the counterfeit goods.

The Daimler AG suit presents a new twist in that the items in question were “sold by Amazon” in addition to being shipped by the company.

Tags: News, Amazon, Marketing, Policy

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