Listen: Minneapolis' Amazon Bookstore sues for trademark

MPR’s Eric Jansen reports on Minneapolis’ Amazon Bookstore Collective taking internet giant to court, claiming trademark infringement and deceptive practices. Jansen interviews book shop owner and an spokesman.


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ERIC JANSEN: Amazon bookstore has been selling books out of its Loring Park location for 14 years. It opened 15 years earlier, in 1970, on the porch of a commune. It's a feminist outlet and has been using its name from the matriarchal society of Amazon Warriors for all of its nearly 30 years.

Today, it has about 25,000 book titles, music videos, and gifts in stock. It opened a website in 1995, the same year that started selling books via the internet. has grown to a nearly $1 billion a year business, offering 4.7 million different books, videos, and other items. Barb Wieser, co-owner and general manager of Amazon bookstore, says as has grown, so has customer confusion.

BARB WIESER: We get a lot of people coming up to us that say things like, I order from your website all the time, but they're not talking about us. They're talking about But they see the word Amazon, and they think that's us.

ERIC JANSEN: Wieser says the confusion has hurt the bookstore's reputation and infringed on its ability to expand. She says she finds it galling that another entity has taken its name, leaving it to deal with the consequences.

BARB WIESER: For instance, we get people-- we've gotten people that call and they're irritable because they haven't gotten their orders, and we have to calm them down, and then we find out they hadn't place their orders with us. They had placed it with

ERIC JANSEN: Wieser says the internet company should have known of her bookstore's existence because it has been a member of the American Booksellers Association for more than a dozen years and has a national reputation. A lawsuit filed in federal court says use of the Amazon name is a federal trademark infringement and is a deceptive trade practice under Minnesota law. It asks the court to order the federal government to revoke's trademark, order the internet company to discontinue using the Amazon name and to pay unspecified damages.

Seattle-based wouldn't comment on the lawsuit, saying it hasn't yet been served legal papers. But spokesman Paul Cappelli explained how the internet company chose its name.

PAUL CAPPELLI: The Amazon River has the largest volume of water of any place in the world that flows through the Amazon River. And the concept behind that or that thinking was that will become the ultimate place where people can find the greatest volume of unique and interesting items on the internet.

ERIC JANSEN: Amazon bookstore co-owner, Wieser, says its lawsuit against is not directly related to the increasing pressure independent bookstores face from chain and internet retailers. She says she and her partners just want to be able to use their traditional name without confusion. I'm Eric Jansen, Minnesota Public Radio.


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