EBay fine highlights online failings

The decision by French courts to fine eBay £1.55m for continuing to sell Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) products shows how hard it is to police brands online, according to a legal expert.

Pam Withers, a partner at intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk, says the ruling and the attempts by eBay to comply with an original injunction on the sale of LVMH products “prove how hard it is to police brands online” and also raise the issue of how much control overdistribution of its goods a company should be allowed.

Withers says the main concern is about counterfeiting and whether or not online markets should be compelled to take greater steps to protect brand owners from being abused. “The real, underlying problem LVMH and other brand owners have with eBay remains the belief that the online market is not doing enough to prevent the sale of fake goods on their sites.”

She points out that while eBay has fared badly in the French courts, the Advocate General at the European Court of Justice gave an opinion in September that favoured Google in a battle with LVMH over whether paid-for keywords against the name of a competitor constitute trademark infringement.

EBay says the French court ruling in favour of LVMH is anti-competitive and plans to lodge an appeal in May 2010. The original court injunction, issued in June 2008, aimed to prevent consumers in France buying or selling LVMH perfumes or cosmetics on eBay.

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