Shoe Maker Blasts Amazon Knockoff

It’s Cyber Monday and, for many of us, that means sneaking glances at online price-slashing throughout the day in order to net the best deals possible on our holiday purchases.

If your shopping takes you to Amazon, you already know that you need to be on alert for knockoff products, as the e-tailer itself has admitted it faces challenges in policing the millions of SKUs it offers.

But what about products that aren’t exactly counterfeit — rather, simply knockoffs of existing designs selling at half the price? And what if the seller is actually Amazon themselves?

Let’s jog back a bit. You may be familiar with the San Francisco-based sneaker company Allbirds, which produces a shoe made of Merino wool and touts an organic, sustainable supply chain. Since its launch in 2014, Allbirds has become an extremely popular brand, which is no doubt enough to inspire copycats.

In this case, a strikingly similar style of Allbirds' $90 shoe began showing up on Amazon.com under the Amazon private label brand 206 Collective — one Allbirds co-founder Joey Zwillinger is calling “algorithmically inspired” by his shoe. But one big difference between the two is the price: the 206 Collective version was listed around $35.

But there was another big difference. Zwillinger recently told CNN that the most frustrating part of the ordeal is that Allbirds open-sources its sustainable materials, meaning Amazon’s 206 Collective brand could freely use them without infringing on any patents. Zwillinger penned an open letter to Jeff Bezos last week, blasting Amazon for this move and asking him to “please steal our approach to sustainability” — saying that if Amazon removed the “oil-based  products” in its supply chain, the two vendors could “jointly make a major dent in the fight against climate change."

Amazon has said that it’s simply offering products “inspired by a trend” and that this “a common practice across the retail industry.” But there might be one thing Amazon could do to graciously level the playing field, and that’s raising the price: the 206 Collective shoe padded its cost by another $10 headed into the holidays.

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