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Online marketplaces may be liable for counterfeit goods

Luxury brands scored a victory today (July 12) as the European Court of Justice ruled that online marketplaces, such as eBay, cannot shirk responsibility for counterfeit goods sold on their sites.

The ruling means that brand owners may be able to initiate legal proceedings against online marketplaces if they if they have knowledge of, or control over, counterfeit goods sold through their sites.

Companies including luxury goods group LVMH and cosmetics giant L’Oréal, which has been embroiled in legal rows with eBay over the sale of counterfeit goods, will welcome the news, according to Kirsten Gilbert, partner at intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk Solicitors.

She said: “Trade mark owners are no longer alone in their fight for online brand protection. Instead, as is the case on the High Street, companies which facilitate sales can be held accountable for the goods which pass through their hands.”

Stefan Krawczyk, senior director and counsel government relations for eBay Europe, said the judgment provides clarity on certain issues.

He added: “As a marketplace, eBay provides a level playing field for all online sellers and will continue building constructive partnerships to expand the range of brands being sold on eBay.”

It is thought that L’Oreal’s original case against eBay, which was settled in eBay’s favour back in 2009, may return to the English High Court off the back of the ruling. However, eBay says has issued a statement saying that it has already made changes to the way it operates since the matters at issue in the proceedings arose, and that it now fulfils most of the conditions that it considers the CJEU has laid out in its judgment.

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