ECJ rules eBay responsible for counterfeits

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Marketplace sites are no longer exempt for selling fake goods.

 The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that eBay can no longer claim exemption from the sale of counterfeit luxury goods through its site.

The court ruled that eBay and other online marketplaces are liable for copyright infringements if they are aware of the illegal nature of the sales their sites facilitate.

The ruling means that, in the future, brand owners will be able to initiate legal proceedings against online marketplaces if they allow counterfeit goods to be sold through their site.

The decision gives definitive answers to questions first put to the European Court of Justice in August 2009 by the High Court of Justice for England and Wales, Mr Justice Arnold. He asked why eBay had won favour after a landmark ruling in the struggle between the luxury cosmetics giant and the online marketplace.

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Later in the same year, a French court ordered eBay to pay LVMH, the owner of the Louis Vuitton brand, €1.7m for failing to prevent the sale of LVMH products on its website.

Tiffany & Co, Links of London and Thomas Sabo have been working against sites selling counterfeits of their brands, and last month Tiffany won a restraining order against a US jewellery store which sold fake Tiffany rings as genuine products.

Tiffany purchased the rings from eBay and confirmed them as counterfeits. The restraining order stems from a lawsuit Tiffany filed for false advertising, trademark infringement and deceptive trade practices.

In this month’s Professional Jeweller, the Speaker’s Corner section put the question of whether retailers and brands should work to stamp out counterfeit jewellery to three industry members.

Melanie Mayer of Rivoli jewellers said: “Brand protection is not only the responsibility of the brand but also the retailers or facilitating sales such as eBay. Retailers also need to report retailers or sites selling fake goods to the brand and should refuse to repair counterfeits.

“Rewarding customers with the real thing when they report a source of fake goods would build true brand values in the eyes of the consumer,” she explained.

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