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Prime Inc. operates some 12,000 trailers that display its trademarked name, according to a new lawsuit.
Photo courtesy Prime Inc.
Prime Inc. operates some 12,000 trailers that display its trademarked name, according to a new lawsuit.

Prime seeks damages in Amazon trademark dispute

Posted online

Last edited 2:54 p.m., July 9, 2019

Springfield-based trucking and logistics company Prime Inc. is seeking damages from e-commerce giant Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) in a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Prime filed suit July 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Southern Division. The company is asking the court to grant “the greater of three times Amazon’s profits or three times any damages sustained by Prime Inc. on account of Amazon’s acts of infringement and unfair competition,” according to the complaint.

At the heart of the issue is Amazon’s use of the word Prime — which the e-commerce company calls its subscription and delivery service — via transporting and shipping services. Prime Inc. officials say Amazon’s use of the word is cause for damages because it can confuse customers. The Springfield company uses Prime on all of its 12,000 trailers, as well as on advertisements and promotional materials. The company claims it has used the mark since at least January 1980, well before Amazon was formed in 1994, followed by the creation of the Prime membership service in 2005.

“The Prime Inc. marks are arbitrary in that their dominant component — the word ‘prime’ —has a meaning that has no direct relation to Prime Inc.’s services. As such, the Prime Inc. marks are inherently distinctive,” the suit reads.

Prime Inc. officials say Amazon’s Prime logos are “confusingly similar” to its own and used in the same transportation channels.

“As a result of Amazon’s display of one or more of the accused marks on trailer trucks and other shipping and transportation vehicles in commerce, consumers have associated and are likely to continue to associate with Prime Inc. any defect, objection or fault found with Amazon’s services, both at and after the point of sale,” the suit reads. “Prime Inc. is aware of and has documented multiple instances of actual consumer confusion, including, without limitation, post-sale confusion.”

Prime Inc. officials claim Amazon’s use of the word is causing “substantial and irreparable harm.” Further, the suit claims Amazon has used its influence to impact copyright decisions related to the Prime name.

The suit alleges counts including federal and common law unfair competition, as well as common law trademark infringement.

Steve Crawford, general counsel for Prime, provided a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“Amazon’s relatively new use of ‘Prime’, particularly when not accompanied by the word ‘Amazon’, on the sides of its trailers transporting goods has caused and threatens to continue to cause confusion in the market. Amazon’s usage, for example, makes it difficult to ascertain the true owner of tens of thousands of trailers, when necessary. While Prime Inc. never enters into litigation lightly, it is committed to protecting its valuable name and the unique reputation it has worked so hard to earn,” the statement reads.

Officials with Amazon did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Prime recently earned the Judges’ Choice award in Springfield Business Journal’s 2019 Dynamic Dozen. The company reported 2018 revenue of $1.9 billion, representing three-year growth of 15%.


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