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E-commerce firms embroiled in counterfeit product claims

15 July 2011 - 12:34 by Simon Crisp

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Websites like eBay could now be held responsible for products which they have on their shelves which are discovered to be fakes, after an EU judge found in favour of cosmetics firm L'Oreal.

The judge said that any site which plays an active part in the publicising of counterfeit goods could be liable to claims of trademark infringement by the brands being exploited.

L'Oreal is directly dealing with auction site eBay via a lawsuit levelled against it at the UK High Court. As well as products which are pure fakes, L'Oreal is concerned about EU customers being given access to its products which were not destined for European shelves, a practice called parallel importing.

The purpose of eBay and other auction sites is to provide a platform for safe shopping online via which members of the public and companies can sell products to one another.

This open marketplace is great in many cases, but the trade of fake or unlicensed goods is understandably seen as damaging by the companies which are being misrepresented.

It is now required that eBay takes a stand to prevent further infringement of intellectual properties belonging to these firms.

While it was admitted by the court that eBay was not using the trademarks of others in a legal sense, there was no denying that customers of the site are able to harness well known brands to make a sale, whether the goods they are peddling are legitimate or not.

The judge was careful to point out that in reality the process of enforcing these guidelines would be carried out on an individual basis by domestic courts within each relevant nation. However, there may be some widespread changes to the presentation of safe shopping online as auction sites like eBay look to comply and avoid infringement.