In a move with implications for e-marketplaces that sell products from independent sellers, the U.S. Supreme Court today denied jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co.’s request for reconsideration of its trademark infringement lawsuit against eBay Inc.
Tiffany sued eBay in 2004, alleging that the e-marketplace company failed to prevent sales on eBay.com of counterfeit versions of Tiffany jewelry. A federal judge in New York ruled in favor of eBay, noting that eBay couldn’t be held liable for the actions of independent sellers, and a federal appeals court upheld that ruling.
EBay contended that the lower-court rulings recognized that it was meeting its responsibilities in fighting counterfeit sales. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial is a great victory for eBay and U.S. consumers,” says Michelle Fang, eBay’s associate general counsel. “We believe this case has always been about Tiffany’s efforts to prevent people from buying and selling authentic Tiffany products online, and the culmination of this case validates eBay’s business practices. The decision lets stand the prior rulings of both the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the trial court, which found that eBay exceeds all legal requirements in the fight against counterfeits.”
Tiffany did not immediately return a call for comment.
This case is one of several in which luxury retailers have sued eBay in the U.S. and Europe over sales of allegedly counterfeit goods. EBay generally has prevailed in U.S. courts, but not always in Europe.