(AFP) – Jul 14, 2008
NEW YORK (AFP) — Internet auction giant eBay cannot be held liable for trademark infringement for counterfeit items sold through its website, a US judge ruled Monday in a case brought by luxury retailer Tiffany.
US District Judge Richard Sullivan in New York found that "eBay is not liable for contributory trademark infringement" for the sale of counterfeit Tiffany silver jewelry on its website.
"The standard is not whether eBay could reasonably anticipate possible infringement, but rather whether eBay continued to supply its services to sellers when it knew or had reason to know of infringement by those sellers," the judge wrote in a 66-page opinion.
The judge said eBay, after being informed by Tiffany of counterfeit items being sold on the website, "immediately removed those listings" but refused to monitor and "preemptively remove listings of Tiffany jewelry before the listings became public."
"The law does not impose liability for contributory trademark infringement on eBay for its refusal to take such preemptive steps," the judge said.
"The result of the application of this legal standard is that Tiffany must ultimately bear the burden of protecting its trademark."
In its own statement, the California firm said, "Today's decision is a victory for consumers. The ruling confirms that eBay acted reasonably and has adequate procedures in place to effectively address counterfeiting. The ruling appropriately establishes that protecting brands and trademarks is the primary burden of rights owners."
The case is similar to others in the United States and elsewhere on the liability of online sellers for copyright infringement.
In France, a court last month ordered eBay to pay nearly 40 million euros (63 million dollars) in damages to Louis Vuitton for selling fake luxury goods.
The Paris commercial court ruled in favor of six LVMH brands and also barred eBay from selling four perfume brands -- Christian Dior, Kenzo, Givenchy and Guerlain -- on its websites.
EBay, which claims some 276 million members worldwide, is also being sued by French cosmetics giant L'Oreal.
Tiffany filed suit in 2004 alleging infractions dating back to 2003.
The luxury retailer earlier this month submitted a letter requesting that the US court recognize the French court's June 30 decision but subsequently withdrew the request.
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