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Judge sides with eBay in fake jewelry spat

Trademark at Tiffany's

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A federal judge has sided with eBay in its long-running legal battle with jewelry giant Tiffany & Co.

In 2004, Tiffany sued eBay for trademark infringement, claiming the online auctioneer failed to prevent the sale of fake Tiffany jewelry on its site, and today, Judge Richard Sullivan of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled that eBay had behaved just fine.

Tiffany argues that eBay is obligated to actively monitor and remove listings for trademarked and copyrighted material. But eBay has always maintained it's not responsible for such listings unless it's notified by the trademark holder. In the end, Judge Sullivan decided that proactive removal isn't required by US law.

"The law demands more specific knowledge as to which items are infringing and which seller is listing those items before requiring eBay to take action," reads the 66-page ruling. "The result of the application of this legal standard is that Tiffany must bear the ultimate burden of protecting its trademark."

It was a much-needed legal win for eBay. A French judge recently sided with LVHM - maker of Louis Vuitton handbags - in a similar suit, ordering eBay for fork over $60m in damages. And this spring, a German court ordered the online auctioneer to preemptively prevent the sale of fake Rolex watches.

In a statement tossed our way, eBay said that the Tiffany suit should never have happened. "While today’s decision is a victory for consumer choice, it is a shame that so much effort has been wasted when Tiffany could have worked with eBay to more effectively fight counterfeits," the company said. "eBay will continue to lead the industry with innovative solutions to stop the sale of counterfeits.".

But don't think this is over. You can bet that Tiffany will appeal. ®

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