Birkenstock wins ruling against Amazon in fakes spat

Birkenstock has won a ruling in a legal dispute with Amazon over what it claims is inappropriate use of misspelled versions of its name.

The German footwear firm has accused Amazon of taking variations on the spelling of Birkenstock – such as ‘Brikenstock’, Birkenstck’ or ‘Bierkenstock’ – as keywords on Google AdWords and directing consumers to its retail sites. There, it claims, unsuspecting consumers are at risk of buying counterfeit versions of its shoes that could undermine its reputation.

The ruling continues an acrimonious dispute between the two companies, which resulted in Birkenstock pulling its products off Amazon’s European sites at the beginning of this year in protest at what it said was a failure to prevent counterfeits being sold. It had already cut ties with Amazon in the US in 2016.

As of today, it’s the case that inputting those misspellings into a Google search yields prominent, paid advertising slots for Amazon, although it’s not clear if that is because Amazon purchased the variations, or Google’s search algorithms are interpreting and delivering its ads based on the close approximations.

In 2012, Amazon said it had introduced functionality to AdWords to include misspellings, plurals and other variations such as acronyms automatically, so that advertisers no longer had to pay for multiple keywords.

Birkenstock’s chief executive Oliver Reichert told German newspaper Der Spiegel that as far as the company was concerned, Amazon was “complicit” in the counterfeit trade, although the online retailer insists it “works diligently with vendors, sellers and rights owners to detect and prevent fraudulent products reaching our marketplace.”

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