When is Amazon.com not Amazon.com? When it's Amazon.com.gr.
High-flying online retailer Amazon.com filed a lawsuit in a US court last week that charges the operators of a copy-cat Greek Web site with trading on its brand name and reputation to lure away customers.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Delaware, charges Greek resident Greg Lloyd Smith, his wife Aikaterini Theochari and two affiliate companies in the US and the UK with a string of offenses including racketeering, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, extortion and mail fraud. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction preventing the defendants from further use of the Amazon domain name.
The English-language site bills itself as "Greece's Biggest Book Store", and allows customers to shop for books, music and other products online. According to Amazon.com's lawsuit, the defendants "instructed their Web site developer to base their Web site ... on Amazon.com's" site, and even cut and pasted portions of the original site into their own.
Smith informed Amazon.com in May of his intention to use its brand name, and offered to sell Amazon.com a controlling interest in an affiliated holding company called CITI Services of Delaware for $US1.6 million, according to the complaint. Amazon refused to comply with what it called "a thinly veiled shakedown".
"Some time after that [Smith] went into business, and he's been infringing on our trademark, our reputation, and doing whatever else he can to siphon off traffic to his business," said Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry.
None of the defendants, which also include CITI Services and CITI Ltd of England, could be reached for comment. The Greek site, which can also be accessed at [ital]http://www.amazon.gr[ital], includes a disclaimer that it is "not affiliated with Amazon.com".
Amazon.com claims to serve 10.7 million customers worldwide. Besides its US site, it operates [ital]http://www.amazon.de[ital] in Germany and [ital]http://www.amazon.co.uk[ital] in the UK, and has said it will launch more international sites in the future.
Amazon.com filed an earlier lawsuit in Greece naming the same defendants. A hearing is scheduled in that matter for September 16, Amazon.com's Curry said.