Elastic, a software start-up in Amsterdam, was rapidly building its business and had grown to 100 employees. Then Amazon came along.
In October 2015, Amazon’s cloud computing arm announced it was copying Elastic’s free software tool, which people use to search and analyze data, and would sell it as a paid service. Amazon went ahead even though Elastic’s product, called ElasticSearch, was already available on Amazon.
Within a year, Amazon was generating more money from what Elastic had built than the start-up, by making it easy for people to use the tool with its other offerings. So Elastic added premium features last year and limited what companies like Amazon could do with them. Amazon duplicated many of those features anyway and provided them free.
In September, Elastic fired back. It sued Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon had called its product by the exact same name: ElasticSearch. Amazon “misleads consumers,” the start-up said in its complaint. Amazon denied it had done anything wrong. The case is pending.
Not since the mid-1990s, when Microsoft dominated the personal computer industry with Windows, has a technology platform instilled such fear in competitors as Amazon is now doing with its cloud computing arm. Its feud with Elastic illustrates how it brandishes power in that technical world.