Finally some good news for eBay. The company which just lost a big suit against LVMH
in France is having better luck on this side of the Atlantic. The AP reports that a federal judge in Manhattan
has ruled in favor of eBay over Tiffany & Co. in a trademark infringement lawsuit. In the suit Tiffany & Co. claimed that eBay's sale of counterfeit goods resulted in trademark dilution, false advertising and unfair competition. When the case opened last November
, James Swire, a lawyer for Tiffany, said that a full 75% of 325 items that Tiffany has bought on eBay through a buying program the company started in 2004 were counterfeit.
But the entered by Judge Richard Sullivan at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday puts the onus for policing its brand on Tiffany. The ruling said the company failed to prove that eBay was liable for the sale of the goods.
As in other cases, eBay argued that it is merely a host for buyers and sellers. That argument didn't fly in France but but Judge Sullivan said in his opinion that "Given Tiffany's choice to sue eBay, rather than individual sellers, and this Court's conclusion that eBay does not continue to supply its services to those whom it knows or has reason to know are infringing Tiffany's trademarks, Tiffany's claims against eBay must fail."
If the decision had come back in Tiffany's favor it would have been a decisive blow for eBay, showing that they were liable for the actions of their sellers. But this decision, combined with the LVMH lawsuit, which puts forth a different view, show that right now there is no clear answer in the question of who is responsible for counterfeit goods on eBay. As always, if you are buying on eBay, caveat emptor.
For the consumer who wants to avoid counterfeit merchandise on eBay, a little research can make a big difference. Looking at the feedback score of the seller and reading the comments can give you some insight into the seller's history. A feedback score of at least 99 percent is best. Also when you are in the seller's history click on the past auctions. If this seller has sold a lot of similar or even identical branded items this is a big red flag. Also, sadly, if it sounds too good to be true and the price is really low you may be looking at a fake.