On July 12, 2011, the European Union (ECJ) has ruled on, L’Oreal v. Ebay, one of the biggest cases of this year, that dealt with trademark law concerning online trade.
The court in the foregoing case has ruled in favor of L’Oreal, the brand owner stating that online marketplaces can be held responsible for the infringement of trademarks on counterfeit goods they promote. In addition, the court held that Ebay should take more steps to regulate its online marketplace. These steps include:
(1) Taking action against counterfeiters where they have knowledge of the illegal activity from being put on notice by the original brand owner or their own investigation. This investigation includes circumstances where “a diligent economic operator should have realized that the online offers for sale were unlawful”.
As you can note from this statement, Ebay will be judged from an objective perspective in the future, which may be difficult for brand owners to prove. Nevertheless, having some protection against counterfeit goods is better than no protection.
(2) Another step includes protecting future counterfeit infringements by the same seller by ensuring that where a seller is working in the course of trade and not as a private seller, that the identity of the seller is clearly identifiable.
Can such a requirement cause privacy issues in the future? Or will counterfeiters learn to scam the online dealers, as do many cyber criminals? I think so, unless, Ebay enforces very stringent requirements. However, these sorts of requirements will most likely give rise to privacy issues. On the other hand, regardless of all of the un-known that this decision may bring about, this court ruling is a step in the right direction to help protect many brand owners from counterfeiters.