Recently, a Reg reader* contacted us at Vulture (virtual) Towers with something odd they'd found online – a page tucked away in the little-visited “Legal Policies” section of Amazon's website containing a "non-exhaustive" list of all the trademarks held by the company.
The list is massive: 821 trademarks, sorted alphabetically and listed entirely free of context or explanation.
On first glance, the contents can be baffling, or will induce flights of fancy as to their purpose. When simply plucked out of a list of plain-text words, the purpose of, say, "6PM", "BAG O'CRAP" or "MAD DOGS" are difficult to discern.
Is Jeff Bezos attempting to trademark hours? Is there an Amazon time-dilation project underway in a secret underground lab somewhere, working towards a future in which the streamlined, space-skimming billionaire and former CEO can reset the day every time it gets to 6pm in order to get two or more day's work out of every warehouse worker for only one day's pay?
While we at The Register cannot definitely confirm that isn't happening, the reality is slightly more prosaic, as these things usually are. 6PM.com is a discount online shoe and clothing store specialising in end-of-line clearances, which Amazon acquired in 2009 when it took over Zappos.com.
Mad Dogs, on the other hand, is the title of an Amazon Prime series. Indeed, Amazon Prime is the source of a lot of names and phrases on the list that might be baffling to those who do not have access to the service. Anyone wondering why Amazon would need to trademark Four More Shots Please or Danger and Eggs need also look no further.
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"SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS" sounds like a promising psychedelic indie band, probably from Liverpool, that I might have seen at a gig in Camden in the late 1990s or early 2000s. But that sadly turns out to be a Prime series as well.
The endless series of random terms also throws up some Amazon projects we had almost forgotten about, like its controversial Mechanical Turk labour crowdsourcing platform.
When we asked Amazon about the list, they were cheerfully upfront about it. It's always been there, they said. It's no secret and they “maintain a public list of trademarks to inform others about our brands”. Although clearly only to show they exist, rather than actually explain what they're for.
One trade name you might actually recognise is Snowmobile - both as a standalone trademark and as "AWS Snowmobile". Unsportingly, the standalone one, rather than being a plan for Amazon to create a new market for electrically powered leisure vehicles for arctic climates, as we wildly speculated – was simply support for the trademark of the AWS product where companies transfer exabyte-sized quantities of data into Amazon's cloud using truck-mounted 45-foot containers full of ones and zeroes. Which, when you think about it, is actually pretty cool. Perhaps they could market it as "TRUCK O'DATA" alongside Woot's "BAG O'CRAP"? [See below].
The list doesn't cover all of Amazon and Bezos's ventures. It contains nothing related to Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's personal rocket and space tourism company, for example. But the fact all of these businesses and projects are still housed together under one metaphorical roof does confirm what a vast enterprise Amazon has become. Rather than hive different parts of the business off, separate them with Chinese walls or create different autonomous divisions, from the outside Amazon remains one colossal, indivisible entity.
For better or worse. ®
* Hat tip to Register reader Michelle for the tip off.