L’Oreal, the French cosmetics giant, has been waging war against eBay for promoting the sale of knock-off products and samples marked “Not for sales” in the EU. The European Court of Justice agreed with them, and said that the company was liable for copyright infringements if they play an “active role” in selling the products.
The ruling overturns a 2009 decision by the British High Court which stated that the company was not “jointly responsible” for the sales, even though it could do more to stop them. The court also ruled that this applied even when the seller is not located in the EU, provided that the merchandise “clearly targets” European customers. On the other hand, the court also ruled that eBay would not be liable if its merchants advertised their wares by displaying signs corresponding to trademarks.
EBay was unfazed by the ruling, and expressed its gratitude to the court for the “clarity” it provided as to what may and may not sold on the site.
Brand owners and their attorneys were also pleased, calling the ruling a blow to counterfeit marketing via the internet. The law, said Kirsten Gilbert of Marks & Clerk, a firm specializing in intellectual property law, “has been straining under the pressure of dealing with the internet age,” and “scenarios never envisaged when our laws were drafted.”
With this ruling, national courts will now be empowered to order eBay and other online retailers to put a stop to trademark infringements.