Squat Between the Ears

A recent article in The Local (Sweden) explained about a woman who's owned the website Amazon.se since 1997. Now the mega-retailer wants her site, but she's not yet sold out.

[ First report (here) in Swedish by Daniel Goldberg, IDG / internetworld ]

Swedish readers react in part to the fact the Stockholm-based company is in the ultra-posh district of Östermalm. Thus she gets minimal sympathy.

Responses to the English-language article labeled this woman "a squatter" and "greedy" and also "a gigantic pain in the ass" -- but what's the truth?

The woman, a graphic designer, founded her company named Amazon in 1988, long before Jeff Bezos started his firm. Amazon AB was registered as a graphic design company in Sweden on 1988-Sept-19 and got their web domain amazon.se on 1997-July-03. 

The mega-retailer amazon.com was founded in Washington State, USA in 1994 and registered their domain 1994-Nov-01. First, clearly the founder of Amazon AB did not choose her company name based on the book giant, as she was in business six years earlier.

Of course, both firms are riding a preexisting well-known term (the Amazon women warriors of Greek myth, and the South American river). Taking advantage of popular generic words is not wholly positive commercially, as common usage continues (we needn't have an apple® a day).

Applying for trademark protection is an administrative process within national jurisdictions. There is no automatic worldwide comprehensive protection. Multiple firms can register trademarks and legally operate in parallel when operations are in different classes of goods or services.

It's very unlikely this woman registered her company name as a website with bad faith intent, or tried to infringe on what's now a monster juggernaut. There's no cybersquatting here. If Bezos & Amazon.com want this woman's site, they can pay. Maybe she'd accept two million euro today -- tomorrow may be different.