Dec 6 2016
Online retailer Amazon has lodged more than 250 trademark applications in Australia ahead of the rollout of its general merchandise, fresh food and video streaming services in the next few years.
If the sheer volume of trademark applications is any guide, Amazon has big ambitions for Australia’s $222 billion retail sector, even if it has taken the online behemoth years to launch all the services enjoyed by consumers in the United States and Britain.
Amazon’s trademark applications in Australia cover more than 30 classes of goods and services, including food and beverages, baby goods and toys, clothing and accessories, computer software and hardware, financial services, telecommunications and digital services including video streaming, e-books, audiobooks, music and cloud storage.
Most of Amazon’s trademarks in Australia were registered directly with IP Australia, but dozens have been registered under a treaty which facilitates filing of trademark applications in a number of countries in one application.
“The fact that a company is filing (trademarks) in a particular country is an indication of some level of interest,” said one intellectual property lawyer, who declined to be named. “Whether it’s imminent or something else is difficult to tell.”
“Even if it isn’t planning to do direct business by opening its doors, Amazon will be shipping product to Australia and to Australian consumers – that’s another motivation to protect its rights,” the IP lawyer said.
Amazon lodged its first trade mark, “If it’s in print it’s in stock” in 1997, the same year it started mailing books to Australian consumers.
Amazon’s most recent trademark application, in November 2016, was Little Big Awesome, one of several original animated and live-action childrens movies available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
The trademark for Amazon Prime was first lodged in 2005. Amazon Prime is expected to formally launch in Australia next year after the soft launch of Amazon’s video streaming service last month to coincide with the release of The Grand Tour.
The trademark application for Amazon Fresh, a subscription-based food delivery service, was first lodged in 2007, but industry players believe Fresh is unlikely to be launched in Australia until 2018 or 2019, despite recent speculation it could arrive as early as next year.
“Amazon Fresh has only recently internally approved the model of physical grocery stores and online,” one industry source said. “They will likely want to roll more of these out in the US and refine the model before coming to a smaller country like Australia.”
“They are definitely coming but it is physically impossible for the grocery component to start next year.”
No Go yet
One trademark that has yet to be lodged in Australia is Amazon Go, a cashier-free bricks and mortar food retail concept launched in Seattle this week after four years under development.
The 167-square-metre convenience store sells ready-to-eat meals such as sandwiches, wraps and salads and staples such as bread, milk and cheese and incorporates technologies such as computer vision, sensor fusion and artificial intelligence to enable customers to shop without stopping to pay for their purchases.
The technology detects when products are taken from or returned to shelves and keeps track of purchases in a virtual shopping cart. When shoppers have finished making their selections the purchases are charged to their Amazon account through an Amazon Go smartphone app.
The check-out free concept is aimed at removing friction from the sales process and poses a new threat to established food retailers who are already grappling with Amazon Fresh in the US and Britain.
Amazon Go is currently being tested by Amazon staff and the first store is expected to open to the public in 2017. It is one of three food-store formats currently being tested by the retailer, which is gradually moving from an online-only model to an omni-channel model.
Amazon now accounts for 50 per cent of online retail sales in the US, according to Roy Morgan Research, and one-fifth of online food and beverage sales.
Citigroup estimates that Australians already spend $500 million to $700 million on Amazon sites. It believes the retailer could capture sales of $4 billion, representing 14 per cent of all online spending and 1.1 per cent of total retail spending, within five years of rolling out its full offer.
“Amazon Fresh would be a disruptive force on the Australian grocery market, but developing the supply chain and dealing with Australia’s lower capital city population density makes entry more challenging,” said Citigroup’s head of research, Craig Woolford, in a recent report.
“We expect Amazon would initially focus on its more successful general merchandise categories like electronics and toys.”