Amazon Accused of Copying Camera Gear Maker's Top-Selling Item

  • Camera and travel gear maker Peak Design called out Amazon for copying its top-selling "Everyday Sling" bag in an ad released this week.
  • Peak Design has been selling its "Everyday Sling" since 2017, while Amazon's private-label business released a strikingly similar product last October, called the "Amazon Basics Everyday Sling."
  • It comes as lawmakers continue to scrutinize Amazon's treatment of third-party sellers on its fast-growing marketplace.

Camera gear maker Peak Design accused Amazon this week of copying one of its products.

Peak Design has been selling an "Everyday Sling" bag on its site since 2017. Last October, an item with a strikingly similar design and available for one-third the price popped up on Amazon

Peter Dering, CEO of San Francisco-based Peak Design, said his company's "Everyday Sling" bag became a target for Amazon to copy after it was the top-selling premium camera bag on the site "by a longshot."

"It feels like somewhere in Amazon there's a bell that goes off, which says 'OK, this one's going to be worth our time to go make the knockoff,'" Dering said in an interview. "And that sort of finally happened to us."

Dering decided to go public with his concerns. On Wednesday, Peak Design released an ad, titled "A Tale of Two Slings: Peak Design and Amazon Basics," which co-stars Dering and pokes fun at Amazon's "copycat" product. Soon after the ad went live, Peak Design customers flooded Amazon's listing for the "Amazon Basics Everyday Sling" with negative ratings, enough that Amazon temporarily disabled reviews on the item. 

Representatives from Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Peak Design isn't the first company to question how the retail giant comes up with its own products. Allbirds co-CEO Joey Zwillinger in 2019 called out Amazon for releasing a knit shoe with "striking resemblances" to its own product. More recently, a Wall Street Journal investigation last April found that Amazon uses data from third-party sellers to help develop its private-label goods. 

The issue was also scrutinized at length in the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee's sweeping 400-plug page report, released last October, which examined Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook's business practices.  

Amazon's private-label business has grown steadily since it was launched in 2007. For many years, the company has offered a range of private-label goods, from phone chargers to microwaves and t-shirts, under the AmazonBasics branding. It also makes private-label products under other brand names. 

The company now has at least 111 private-label brands that offer 22,617 products, according to a Coresight Research report published last May. That's still a drop in the bucket compared with the rest of Amazon's sprawling marketplace, which offers millions of products. 

While private-label brands make up a fraction of Amazon's overall business, sellers and brands like Peak Design say they're frustrated that they're forced to compete with Amazon's private-label lines, especially when it comes to pricing.

Peak Design is accusing Amazon of knocking off its "Everyday Sling," which first launched in 2017.

Peak Design's "Everyday Sling" is priced at $99, while the "Amazon Basics Everyday Sling" costs $35.14. Dering said Amazon's ability to offer a version of its sling bag at such a discounted price "absolutely impacts our business in a pretty big way." Amazon changed the name of the bag to "Amazon Basics Camera Bag" after Peak Designs published its video.

Amazon in October 2020 launched an "Everyday Sling" that Peak Design says bears a striking similarity to its own product.

"Certainly a percentage of buyers that were taking a look at the Peak Design 'Everyday Sling' saw the Amazon one next to it because they advertise heavily around it," Dering said. "So a customer is going to have that choice." 

It's common for grocery stores and department stores to develop their own brands and promote them to customers. Sellers and brands say what sets Amazon's behavior apart from other retailers is its ability to collect detailed, historical data from activity across the platform that it can use to its advantage.

Amazon has the ability to "see everything about the demographic of the customer that likes this particular bag, which customers have purchased it, how many customers have searched and have not purchased, who clicked on a similar product so that they can serve a product next to it," said Jason Boyce, a former Amazon seller who is now a consultant to third-party merchants, in an interview. "So the amount of data that Amazon collects doesn't make things fair."

Boyce was interviewed by lawmakers during the House antitrust subcommittee investigation. He has repeatedly raised concerns about Amazon's private-label business, after the retail giant launched a private-label bocce ball set that appeared strikingly similar to his, down to the "unique color scheme" designed by Boyce's brand.

Amazon has previously contended that it has no incentive to abuse third-party sellers' trust because third-party sales account for more than half the company's overall sales, surpassing its own first-party business. The company also says while it uses aggregated data from merchants, it has policies in place that prohibit individual seller data from being used to inform its private-label strategy.

However, the House antitrust subcommittee report and the Journal investigation pointed to loopholes in those policies, which may mean that aggregate sales data is effectively individual seller data when one seller is dominant.

Sellers and brands like Peak Design are growing more emboldened to take public swipes at Amazon for what they believe are tactics putting pressure on their business.

Dering said he considers Amazon Basics' look-alike sling to be infringing upon Peak Design's patented design for its "Everyday Sling." The company weighed filing a lawsuit, but ultimately decided to release the short ad, in the hopes that it would spark a public conversation about Amazon's "flippant copycatting."

"I thought it was the perfect middle finger," Dering said. "I'm having a lot of fun with this. I would never have fun with a lawsuit." 

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