Amazon Ordered to Stop Selling Birkenstock Sandals to Bad Typists and Poor Spellers

Boosting your SEO by buying ads on keywords that are misspelled versions of common search terms is a time-honored marketing tactic. Unless the law steps in and spoils the fun.

That just happened to Amazon in Germany–the company was ordered
by a court to stop buying Google AdWords for search terms that are almost-but-not-quite “Birkenstock,” such as “Brikenstock” or “Birkenstok.”

Who would object to such a thing? Birkenstock would. A year ago, Birkenstock stopped selling its sandals through Amazon in the U.S., and more recently, it announced it would stop selling through Amazon’s European sites as well. Birkenstock says that the reason it’s pulling its products is what it calls a high incidence of counterfeit Birkenstock sandals on Amazon sites, which it fears could erode its brand. The sandal maker said Amazon hadn’t done enough to keep these counterfeits off its site, and Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert told the German magazine Der Spiegel that the company considered Amazon “complicit.” Birkenstock asked for the court injunction for similar reasons, saying it feared customers would be lured to Amazon’s site and wind up buying fake Birkenstock footwear.

Amazon has not commented on the legal action specifically, but told Reuters, “Amazon prohibits the sale of fraudulent products. We work diligently with vendors, sellers and rights owners to detect and prevent fraudulent products reaching our marketplace.”

Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting policy
is laid out in no uncertain terms on its website, and earlier this year, the company opened a registry where manufacturers and intellectual property owners could register their logos and intellectual property, allowing Amazon to take down fakes. Nevertheless, there is still a widespread problem of counterfeit products for sale there–I accidentally bought at least one myself.

As for the allegation that Amazon has bought AdWords ads for keywords that are common misspellings of “Birkenstock,” that much appears to be true. At least in the U.S., where a search for “Birkenstok” does lead you to a sponsored Amazon result.

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