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Germany Orders Amazon To Stop Taking Advantage of People Who Can't Spell 'Birkenstock' (qz.com) 162

Germany has barred Amazon from drawing in online shoppers who misspell iconic German sandal maker Birkenstock in their Google searchers. "Amazon reportedly won business for common Birkenstock misspellings by booking variants like 'Brikenstock,' 'Bierkenstock,' and 'Birkenstok' in Google AdWords, so that they produced search results for shoes sold in Amazon.com," reports Quartz. From the report: According to Reuters, Birkenstock turned to the court because it feared shoppers might unwittingly buy shoddy counterfeits, which could damage its brand reputation. "For us, Amazon is complicit," Birkenstock chief Oliver Reichert told German magazine Der Spiegel, according to Reuters. Birkenstock first walked away from Amazon.com in July 2016. Besieged by counterfeits and rogue merchants, the company said it would no longer supply products to Amazon for U.S. customers starting Jan. 1, 2017. "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an 'open market,' creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand," David Kahan, Birkenstock's CEO for the Americas, wrote in a memo at the time.

A year later, Kahan denounced Amazon in a lengthy memo for attempting to get Birkenstock retailers to sell it their inventory, even though the company had explicitly removed its sandals from Amazon.com in the U.S. "I share in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Kahan wrote. "[A]ny Authorized retailer who may do this for even a single pair will be closed FOREVER."

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Germany Orders Amazon To Stop Taking Advantage of People Who Can't Spell 'Birkenstock'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've seen counterfeit Samsung chargers, there is probably other stuff.

  • Editors (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 30, 2017 @02:32AM (#55832975)

    "Amazon reportedly won business for common Birkenstock misspellings by booking variants like 'Birkenstock,' 'Bierkenstock,' and 'Birkenstok' in Google AdWords"
    Slasdot editors are evidently unable to properly misspell Birkenstock.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @02:32AM (#55832977) Homepage

    Really, the court ruling is idiotic. If Amazon cannot book those words, some counterfeiter will. And what permutations, exactly, counts as a misspelling? What about other names, where there are many legitimate spellings?

    That said, Amazon has really shot itself in the foot with it's 3rd party marketplace. It is increasingly difficult to sort out the crap, the potential crap, and the legitimate products. Personally, and precisely for this reason, I order a lot less from Amazon than I used to.

    • by EMN13 ( 11493 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @03:49AM (#55833117) Homepage

      Birkenstock doesn't sell on amazon precisely because of a falling out in which it claims amazon doesn't effectively prevent counterfeiters on amazon's own marketplace.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I read the decision and it's because Amazon uses the misspellings to sell counterfeit shoes. Amazon can't sell the real ones themselves, everything on there is fake and they refuse to police third party sellers.

      It's really not an unusual decision.

      • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

        they refuse to police third party sellers

        That's not true, you can report after having received a 'fake' product and they will investigate accordingly.

    • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @04:19AM (#55833173)

      Really, the court ruling is idiotic. If Amazon cannot book those words, some counterfeiter will. And what permutations, exactly, counts as a misspelling? What about other names, where there are many legitimate spellings?

      That said, Amazon has really shot itself in the foot with it's 3rd party marketplace. It is increasingly difficult to sort out the crap, the potential crap, and the legitimate products. Personally, and precisely for this reason, I order a lot less from Amazon than I used to.

      This.

      And, for example, Apple reportedly did an investigation of all the "Genuine Apple" AC adapters on Amazon, and found something like 90% or more were bootleg, non-Apple parts.

      And lest you think they were doing that just to promote sales of their own stuff, they started the investigation because of a rash of Trashed iOS and Mac equipment, where the AC adapter had destroyed the gear.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        Apple

        Congrats, you managed to inject Apple in a story about counterfeit sandals. You beat the Trump or SystemD trolls this time.

        • Apple

          Congrats, you managed to inject Apple in a story about counterfeit sandals. You beat the Trump or SystemD trolls this time.

          Funny that I just KNEW some Slashtard like you would miss the point ENTIRELY.

          You know, you don't get any extra points for following me round to gainsay every single thing I comment-about...

          Moron.

          • You know, you don't get any extra points for following me round to gainsay every single thing I comment-about

            When your mom told you that you're special and that everyone remembers you, she was lying.

            • You know, you don't get any extra points for following me round to gainsay every single thing I comment-about

              When your mom told you that you're special and that everyone remembers you, she was lying.

              Funny, I remember you commenting on many of my Slashdot postings; therefore, I assume you remember me, too.

              Or do you have some sort of mental disability?

    • It is increasingly difficult to sort out the crap, the potential crap, and the legitimate products

      Is this a criticism of Amazon's third party marketplace or a reflection of a fact that increasingly, the only 'tangible' difference between 'real' and 'counterfeit' is the ephemeral 'quality' imbued by being manufactured on behalf of those owning the IP?

      Is it possible that in the near future, the counterfeit items will be manufactured to a higher standard than the 'real' ones? If so, would the counterfeiter the

      • uhh, ephemeral -> intangible

        It is increasingly difficult to sort out the crap, the potential crap, and the legitimate products

        Is this a criticism of Amazon's third party marketplace or a reflection of a fact that increasingly, the only 'tangible' difference between 'real' and 'counterfeit' is the intangible 'quality' imbued by being manufactured on behalf of those owning the IP?

        Is it possible that in the near future, the counterfeit items will be manufactured to a higher standard than the 'real' ones? If

      • Honestly, 90% of counterfeits are coming out of the same Chinese factory as the originals anyway. In cases where the IP holder polices their manufacturer, they just hand over the plans to their wives second cousin's brother who owns a factory 3 towns over and have him produce the counterfeits.
    • That said, Amazon has really shot itself in the foot with it's 3rd party marketplace. It is increasingly difficult to sort out the crap, the potential crap, and the legitimate products. Personally, and precisely for this reason, I order a lot less from Amazon than I used to.

      I used to think ordering from Amazon was better than going to Ebay and buying some random Chinese crap. However, the Amazon 3rd party marketplace seems to be run now by the same Chinese crap sellers. At least on Ebay they are honest about this, and you can try to look up the reviews etc.

      Recently ordered few items for Christmas from Amazon, item links were to authentic item listings on Amazon itself, addresses of sellers listed in the US, EU, etc. The stuff that arrives is some copy arriving weeks late direc

      • Amazon will just take your stuff back. Even better, most sellers donâ(TM)t even want to bother going through the return process and just give your money back.

        Although Iâ(TM)ve found in many cases that the, cheap direct from China, is actually the item you are expecting.

      • The only things I will buy from Amazon are those sold by Amazon itself or if it's sold by a third party seller then it has to be fulfilled by Amazon. That means that Amazon has the item in one of it's warehouses.

        Overall I think the third party marketplace has been a failure for customers. It makes Amazon a lot of money for sure. But it's harder to find things now via a search or just drilling down through the categories. Sub-categories are filled with non-related items. I wrote Amazon complaining about how

      • I have literally never had this problem, in years of using Amazon, and I wonder just what you're buying on there. Amazon's returns dept is also very helpful and will get you a refund no questions asked, unless you're doing more returns than orders.
    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @07:45AM (#55833603) Homepage Journal

      Unlike patents or copyrights, trademarks and brand registrations require the owner to actively defend them. So Birkenstock actually didn't have a choice of going after Amazon or not, and neither would it in going after counterfeiters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Daemonik ( 171801 )
      I love how Birkenstock's position is that apparently everyone can spell their name properly and if you can't you were looking for counterfeits. Birkenstock themselves should have already had these AdWords pointing to their own store because misspellings happen and they're refusing customers over it, which is honestly a form of commercial elitism I've never seen before, so polite golf clap for you Birkenstock.
    • And what permutations, exactly, counts as a misspelling?

      Congratulations, you've made my porn file.

      New category: exactitude porn.

      Typical denizen: He (or she) who hast not yet completed the first chapter of Ur-Nammu [wikipedia.org] for Dummies.

      If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.

      What constitutes a 'virgin' exactly? How do I know if I'm a virgin? [telegraph.co.uk]

      If the wife of a man followed after another man and he slept with her, they shall slay that woman, but th

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, I think you got the right conclusion, but I don't support how you got there. You can't allow somebody to do something wrong because if they don't do it, someone else will. No the real issue is that Amazon didn't do anything wrong here -- and I can't believe I just wrote that.

      As long as they don't represent themselves *as* Birkenstock, or sell counterfeit goods, what they're doing is looking for people in the market for sandals.

  • by 89cents ( 589228 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @02:35AM (#55832983)
    "variants like 'Birkenstock,' 'Bierkenstock,' and 'Birkenstok'"

    Wow, it's so good I can even tell the difference in the first variant!

  • by Templer421 ( 4988421 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @02:51AM (#55833013)

    Wear real shoes people, they protect your toes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sandals are real shoes, they have been worn for thousands of years. No need to change anything.

    • I always laughed at Birkenstocks until a foot doctor convinced me to try them. Now at the end of the day I can't wait to take off my work shoes and slip into my sandals. Even better is that I've realized that wearing socks with sandals is both comfortable and sharp looking, which my kids absolutely hate and embarrasses them to no end.
    • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
      Living in the "first world", I can assure you my toes do not require any extra protection. There is not so much hazardous waste, rabid dogs or grenade splinters in the streets, here.
  • This is what slashdot has come to ... I'm pretty sure that slashdots best moment was the 9-11 coverage. It actually showed what community/social media could do. Oh well... get off my lawn!

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Best moment was after Columbine, with the article in which people discussed systematic bullying that would lead either to suicide or school shootings.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by lucm ( 889690 )

      I'm pretty sure that slashdots best moment was the 9-11 coverage. It actually showed what community/social media could do.

      If something like 9-11 happened today, it would be downplayed in the media to avoid suggesting "an amalgam between violent practices and belonging to a religion", unless of course if the terrorists where white males, in which case amalgamation would be a good thing (white males = rape = guns = nazis = trump, and I'm pretty sure we can throw in global warming in there). That is a direct result of what community/social media can do.

      The next logical step for society is wiping our asses using three seashells.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      9-11 was 17 years ago.

      17 years ago, the Internet was a very different place, Slashdot hadn't been sold off nearly as many times, 6-digit uids were almost unheard of, and there was actually some kind of geek culture around here that influenced others.

      And all I remember of the 9-11 coverage on Slashdot was thinking "Oh, for fuck's sake, if I wanted that, I'd go on a news site or research it myself, I want to read about SOMETHING ELSE" like I always did on Slashdot - the stuff nobody else thought important, po

  • common Birkenstock misspellings by booking variants like 'Birkenstock,'

    You have to admit that those two spellings are very close indeed.

  • Interesting but very confusing summary.

  • So Birkenstock does not supply or Authorize sale of its brand through Amazon but see lots of footwear available with multiple offers. They could be authentic just gray not thru authorized channels or knockoffs made 3rd shift in cheap foreign country in same factory or nearby with lower quality. If gray tough luck for BS someone found in market and reselling. If knockoffs then Hope BS has stronger case. What is curious is why Amazon advertising if no support from BS? Are the gray stores or knockoffs supporti
  • The Birkenstock crowd has a rep for being the laid-back hippie Earthmother types. This guy sounds like he's engaged in a scorched-earth battle with Amazon and is willing to burn down anyone else who gets in his way.
    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @08:20AM (#55833669)

      The Birkenstock crowd has a rep for being the laid-back hippie Earthmother types. This guy sounds like he's engaged in a scorched-earth battle with Amazon and is willing to burn down anyone else who gets in his way.

      No, he sounds like a guy fed up with unsatisfied consumers who bought "beercanstocks" thinking they were authentic, which will damage a reputable brand and product.

      And if the manufacturer allegedly stopped selling valid product to Amazon US customers a year ago, no wonder he's pissed. Amazon hasn't done jack shit to deter counterfeiters from selling knock-offs. There's a fucking Birkenstock Amazon store which features their logo, valid photos, obscene prices (one pair had a $130 - 817.78 price range?!), and plenty of reviews warning people about fakes.

      Even hippies have their limits. Everyone does.

  • Amazon reportedly won business for common Birkenstock misspellings by booking variants like 'Birkenstock,'

    Maybe I'm blind, but I can't see any difference in those two highlighted words... Heckuva good summary there, Beau!

  • The situation is a bit more nuanced, and I think it is possible birkenstock is more concerned about non-counterfeit items. Specifically from 3rd party resellers.

    There are small resellers which buy from liquidators, and sell the items at a lower price. Think about Ross stores, but just some random seller on Amazon. This creates a messy situation, for the manufacturer (birkenstock), and of course the buyers.

    1. There are items from actual authorized resellers (or the manufacturer directly)
    2. There are items fr

    • Your number 2 is akin to a factory outlet, which many/most fashion retailers are happy to have, far enough away from their high street store that their premium customers don't go there.

      It would be solved in part if the 3rd party resellers could be encouraged to mark "last season" goods as such.

      A better solution would be for the brands to make it easy for consumers to check. For example, a page on their site where you could put in the URL of the resellers page, and for each product on it, it would rep

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