eBay Management Ruled Safe from Trademark Infringement

Dennis Faas's picture

eBay has escaped potentially huge compensation claims after a court ruled it isn't responsible for trademark infringement by sellers hawking counterfeit goods.

The case followed complaints by jeweller Tiffany & Co who argued that eBay should be held responsible for ensuring all listings are legit.

The dispute wasn't to do with the selling of fake goods itself -- that's a legal issue between buyer and seller. Instead it centres on the point that firms such as Tiffany only licence their name to be used on official, legitimate products. Anyone passing off fake items as Tiffany products is breaching the firm's trademark. Tiffany argued that, as the middle-man, eBay was effectively taking part in this infringement.

The judge involved ruled this wasn't the case, saying it's up to trademark owners to monitor and clamp down on illegal use of their trademarks. He rejected the argument that because eBay knows it's possible that some listings are for knock-off goods, they should check out every case.

Tiffany disputes the ruling and a spokesman said the firm is planning to appeal. It believes it's unfair that a trademark holder should bear all the responsibility in this situation.

The case had lasted four years and was held without a jury. Tiffany's had asked that eBay be forced to automatically suspend and investigate any listing for five or more of its products. (Source: reuters.com)

The ruling is good news for eBay, as it will make it difficult for other firms to bring similar cases against them in the U.S. However, eBay still faces a battle in France, where it was recently ordered to pay $61 million to the owners of the Louis Vuitton fashion house after comparable charges. In that case the court ruled eBay hadn't done enough to vet counterfeit sellers; eBay is contesting the judgement. (Source: walletpro.com)

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