Cliff Stoll makes glass Klein bottles, which are a nifty topological curiosity. He sells them on his website and also on Amazon. This month, a company gamed Amazon's rules about trademarks and took over Stoll's listing for Klein bottles and started selling a blackhead removal device. The reason they did this was because the Klein bottle had 199 five-star reviews and 2 four-star reviews. Stoll has tried to reach out to Amazon to correct the hack, but Amazon won't speak to him and considers the matter settled.
From Stoll's site:
For the past 5 years, I've had a listing on Amazon, where I sold only large Klein bottles, This listing received 199 five-star reviews and 2 four-star reviews. No bad reviews at all. (I'm honored, of course). My Amazon customers are mainly parents who buy Klein bottles for their kids around the holidays.
Well, sometime in May, Amazon seller "Amvoom", from Shenzen China, trademarked the word "Amvoom". On June 22nd, they used Amazon's Brand Registry to re-brand my listing on Amazon (replacing my brand, "Acme Klein Bottle" with "Amvoom") They could do this because Amazon's Brand Registry only respects issued trademarks. In essence, they told Amazon they owned the Klein bottle listing. In turn, they are now in charge of that Klein bottle listing on Amazon. So instead of "Handmade Klein Bottle", Amazon now lists "AMVOOM Handmade Klein Bottle".
Amvoom does not sell Klein bottles. Likely, they don't know what one is. Instead, they redirected my 199 reviews to their product (a black-head remover). They did so by adding a second "color option" for their black-head remover, which was just a pointer to my Amazon Klein bottle listing. In turn, all my reviews show up on their black-head remover. The ordinary color of their item costs $12. The oddball color shows a photo of a Klein bottle and costs $75. All the reviews are combined on their black-head remover listing, so both "colors" have five-star reviews. Their main listing shows five-star reviews. But if you read their reviews, you'll see the black-head device has lots of reviews talking about Klein bottles and mathematics.
To make their blackhead remover listing look legit, Amvoom then submitted several hundred orders over Amazon, and immediately canceled each order. These depleted my Klein bottle inventory on Amazon – even though nothing was paid for, and nothing was shipped. In turn, this removed the "second color option" for their blackhead-remover, since Amazon felt that the Klein bottles were out of stock. Result: their black-head remover listing got 199 positive reviews, and the Klein bottle did not show up as a "color choice" in the Amvoom black-head listing.
After 2 days, the "Amazon Prime Days" sale ended, and Amvoom stopped linking to their product. However, they still "own" my listing.
Most likely Amvoom sells (or rents) my reviews to some other Amazon seller. These are professionals who manipulate Amazon reviews — they sell their services (and my reviews) to disreputable Amazon sellers. For example, the Amazon seller who listed the Amvoom black-head remover is "TaroRee", located in Fujian China.
As a byproduct of Amvoom's shenanigans, I am unable to edit my Amazon listing or to sell my Klein bottles on Amazon. There is no way to appeal this to Amazon – the Amazon Brand Registry does not accept email (only a website pull-down menu which advertises how wonderful they are, and how to apply for the benefits of Brand Registry). My complaints to Amazon seller support have been ignored.
If you know someone who works at Amazon Brand Registry, please tell me. Or better yet, please tell them of the headaches this has caused.
This isn't the first time Stoll has dealt with hackers. He wrote a book called The Cuckoo's Egg about his search for hackers who had broken into a university computer system in the 1980s when he was an astronomer.
[image: Acme Klein Bottle]