Now more than ever we are made aware of our reliance upon Amazon in providing us with what we want and need, and for the duration of our current crisis questions about wages and hours for warehouse workers or the sheer dominance of the online retailer and whether that's good for anybody but Amazon become secondary to the urgent demand to get things without having to leave our homes. Seamless ordering and touchless delivery are vital at the moment, and Amazon has perfected the process of letting people order just about anything over the past decade. Who's actually providing those goods is another question, and it's at the center of a recent trademark case.
Regular Amazon shoppers have noticed those items marked as "Fulfilled by Amazon", and a quick investigation would reveal that those products are sold by third parties, with Amazon simply providing storage and shipping (for a fee, of course.) So if one of those third-party vendors sold items that infringed upon a trademark, would Amazon be liable for listing and distributing those goods? That's the question beauty product company Coty sought to answer as it took its case against Amazon to the European Court of Justice. And while it undoubtedly hoped for an answer in the affirmative, Amazon came out the winner in the case.
The court ruled that while Amazon was offering unlicensed Davidoff perfume through its Marketplace, simply storing the items that infringe upon trademarks is not the same as infringing upon the trademark themselves, as Coty alleged. Amazon, for its part, makes efforts to try and stamp out counterfeit products from its store, but as with any enterprise of that size it's undoubtedly difficult to eliminate everything. Thus the case goes back to German federal court with Amazon ahead in points on the scoresheet.
Given what a prominent role Amazon is playing as a supplier for the coming weeks and months, concerns about what it's offering to consumers and how its associated vendors are operating are at the fore. There is of course the vendor who hoarded hand sanitizer for resale and the inevitable yet still disappointing price gouging that took place in the early days of the outbreak, to say nothing of the scourge of fake coronavirus cures hawked by unscrupulous vendors online and elsewhere. "Caveat emptor" is always a good rule of thumb for consumers, and never more so than during a time when all of our shopping is sight unseen.