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French union demands eBay blocks fakes pre-emptively

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An industrial lobby in France is seeking damages from eBay to compensate for the site's sales of counterfeit goods. The Union of Manufacturers (Unifab) is to complain to prosecutors and seek compensation for its members.

The union told news agency Reuters that it believed eBay was not doing enough to combat sales of fake goods through its auctions. It is about to file a complaint to prosecutors about eBay and other auction sites.

Auction sites have traditionally been reluctant to monitor auctions because of the huge numbers of items listed, but lawsuits have been brought against them. France was at the centre of one of those in 2001 when it ordered that Yahoo!'s US auction site ban listings of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan related material from being available for sale in France.

"We think eBay is perfectly capable of policing its site, but they offer to take action only after the fact. They refuse to act pre-emptively," Unifab chairman Marc Antoine Jamet told Reuters. "We think they have the IT to manage their sites, to track bank accounts and ownership."

eBay says it has an anti-counterfeit scheme and that it does monitor auctions for goods that clearly infringe manufacturers' rights. The company encourages copyright holders to contact it regarding any auctions of goods that violate copyrights. It is understood that in some situations eBay does proactively monitor some auctions using keywords.

Jamet is an executive with French luxury goods company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, LVMH, which now tracks counterfeit sales online. He said the case would seek damages to recover losses caused by counterfeit sales.

The development is the latest French move taking on the might of Silicon Valley. France has long legislated to keep Hollywood from dominating its cinemas and is now legislating to prevent US technology companies from taking control of its cultural and business landscapes.

The French parliament passed a law this year demanding that Apple ensures that music sold on its iTunes site could be played by devices other than its own iPod. It also legislated to control the sale of Nazi memorabilia on online auction sites, a move which affected all Yahoo! and eBay sites, and not just those designed specifically for the French market.

A French court ruled earlier this year that Google had to pay a €300,000 fine because it carried advertisements for counterfeit goods on its sites.

"There is a continent which makes the fakes, which is China, and there is a continent where they are sold, and that is the internet," Jamet told Reuters.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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