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Judge Rules In Favor Of eBay In Tiffany Lawsuit

In his ruling, the judge said trademark owners -- rather than e-commerce sites -- are responsible for protecting their own brands from counterfeiters.
EBay has declared a victory -- for itself and customers -- now that a judge has ruled that a famous jewelry company is responsible for counterfeit goods that threaten its brand.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan said the auction Web site is not responsible for counterfeit goods sold on its site. The ruling ends a lawsuit that Tiffany & Co. filed in 2004. Tiffany claimed eBay infringed on its trademarks and said most products sold as "Tiffany" goods on eBay are fake. Tiffany argued that eBay knew that sellers posted counterfeits on the site and ignored requests to remove Tiffany products.

Sullivan said in his ruling that the court sympathizes with Tiffany but believes the jewelry company is responsible for protecting its own brand. The ruling, in the southern district of New York, removes the burden of responsibility from e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com. It does not let sellers of counterfeit goods off the hook.

"Today's decision is a victory for consumers," eBay announced in a statement. "The ruling confirms that eBay acted reasonably and has adequate procedures in place to effectively address counterfeiting. The ruling appropriately establishes that protecting brands and trademarks is the primary burden of rights owners."

The auction Web site also said: "It is a shame that so much effort has been wasted when Tiffany could have worked with eBay to more effectively fight counterfeits."

EBay called itself an industry leader for coming up with "innovative solutions to stop the sale of counterfeits." The site developed a reporting system so companies can notify eBay when fakes are sold on the Web site. The Web site blacklists sellers who are caught peddling knock-offs.

It did not comply with Tiffany's requests that it delete sellers offering five or more Tiffany items -- a threshold Tiffany created to determine whether goods were likely counterfeit.

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