Quite recently, Amazon has filed a bunch of international Trademark Applications for ‘Amazon Pharmacy’ in the UK, Canada, and Australia, which signals a potential move towards selling prescription drugs outside the United States. As per the official website of the Canadian Intellectual Property (IP) Office (CIPO), Amazon filed the trademark application on 9th January 2020. The CIPO has listed the trademark application’s current status as ‘pre-formalized,’ which implies that it is in the ‘All Active’ category of the proposed trademarks. The trademark application has also listed several other areas that Amazon Pharmacy might move into, such as surgical, pharmaceutical, medical, and dental instruments, along with medical and veterinary preparations. The UK’s IP Office and IP Australia have also listed similar Trademark Filings from 9th January 2020 on their official websites.
In 2017, Amazon began its move into the drug space when it had started hiring people to break into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market. In 2018, the company acquired PillPack, a startup specializing in providing home delivery of medications. Without any doubt, this move signaled Amazon’s pretty early focus on the US prescription market (where PillPack is headquartered); however, with the support of local partners, it had dabbled in launching prescription medications to its marketplace in Japan.
As of now, Amazon Pharmacy is a relatively new brand. At the end of 2019, PillPack notified its customers that it would be including references to the brand on its printed labels and materials. Furthermore, it suggested that PillPack might be looking forward to going beyond its current remit that involves fulfilling various medications, along with shipping them in well-defined and labeled packages every month. PillPack doesn’t yet offer services to customers with acute needs for medications; instead, it focuses on people with chronic ailments, who require taking multiple medications frequently.
Filing several trademark applications doesn’t necessarily imply that international expansion is about to happen. However, it does mean that Amazon shall eventually go global, which is also in line with its business strategy. It also brings into light the countries that Amazon is all set to explore next.
While scaling its business in the US, PillPack has faced quite a lot of difficulties and challenges. Although the domestic market in the US is large enough, with insurers and patients spending somewhere around $300 billion every year on prescription drugs; however, it is also highly competitive and complicated. Ever since Amazon acquired PillPack, it has already started facing lawsuits from its arch-competitors corresponding to its hiring practices. It also fought with Surescripts (a Virginia-based IT company supporting e-prescription between pharmacies and healthcare organizations) that had attempted to shut off its access to patient medication data. It even battled with a few pharmacy benefits managers such as Cigna-owned Express Scripts, which almost led to PillPack losing access to a lot of its customers with insurance. So, it won’t be wrong to say that there is still a lot for Amazon’s subsidiary PillPack to cover in the US before it proceeds towards the international markets.