Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Does eBay Court Victory Portend Other Website Wins?

The ruling confirms that eBay acted reasonably and has adequate procedures in place to effectively address counterfeiting

- eBay spokesperson Nicola Sharpe

We are shocked and deeply disappointed in the district court's erroneous reading of the law. The ruling allows sellers of counterfeit goods on eBay to victimize consumers.

- Tiffany & Company spokesperson Mark Aaron

In Wendy Davis, "Tiffany Loses Trademark Infringement Case Against EBay," Online Media Daily, July 15, 2008

The ruling by federal judge Richard Sullivan in New York spoke to two controversy issues relating to intellectual property on the web. Tiffany had sued eBay in 2004 because it said it feared that people were auctioning fake Tiffany goods. The jeweler stated that eBay should prohibit its sellers from listing five or more Tiffany items. eBay replied that it removed counterfeits when it discovered they were fake, but could not see the justification fo prohibiting the sale of Tiffany goods without that knowledge.

The judge agreed, saying that eBay's practice of removing items from its site in response to notices from Tiffany was enough to prevent being liable. The judge also refused to accept an additional argument by Tiffany that because its name is trademarked eBay should be stopped from using the Tiffany name in eBay's advertising on search engines. The judge stated that eBay needed to use the Tiffany to describe certain products and that this activity was "fair use" according to trademark law.

Judge Posner's decision might inflence the outcome of Viacom's lawsuit against Google, alleging that Google should have done more to stop people from placing Viacom's copyrighted programs on its site. "Although Tiffany alleged trademark infringement, its arguments were comparable to those in Viacom's copyright infringement lawsuit against Google's YouTube. Viacom, like Tiffany, wants to hold a site liable for material placed on it by users. And like Tiffany, Viacom argues that Google should be required to police the site for intellectual property infringement."

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