Court allows eBay to continue selling fakes

In a victory for cheapskates everywhere, a US appeals court has upheld eBay’s right to sell lousy knock-offs of designer brands.

A New York panel of judges has overturned a district court judgement that the company had engaged in ‘trademark infringement and dilution’ by touting Tiffany jewellery that, ahem, wasn’t actually the real thing.

EBay is, understandably, rather happy with the ruling.

“The decision is a critically important victory for online consumers who want the best prices for genuine products, and underscores eBay’s commitment to connecting buyers and sellers under the pillars of trust, value and selection,” said eBay’s general counsel, Michael R Jacobson. “We continue to support cooperation, rather than litigation.”

Bet you do, mate.

There was a rap on the knuckles for EBay, though, over Tiffany’s claim that the online retailer had engaged in false advertising. The judges reckoned that this was actually true, as many of the advertised goods were of course counterfeit.

They added, though, that this wasn’t likely to confuse customers – in other words, most of the people paying $1.99 for a Tiffany ring probably had a fair idea it wasn’t the real thing.

EBay says it’s spent millions of dollars trying to eliminate counterfeit goods from its site, but that there’s only so much it can do.

Tiffany (TM, oh, very definitely TM) says it may fight on with an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

“Obviously Tiffany is very disappointed by today’s decision,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and CEO of Tiffany.

“EBay knew that counterfeit merchandise was being sold on its site — and eBay took no effective steps to stop it. EBay deliberately misled consumers for profit, and unfortunately, the court has justified its actions.”

The decision forms part of a growing legal consensus that internet companies can’t be held responsible for content posted on their sites by others.