On July 14, a judge ruled in favor of ecommerce giant eBay in what BusinessWeek claims was “a victory for companies across the Internet that rely on advertising or the buying and selling of goods.” Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. had sued eBay for not doing enough to stop the sale of counterfeit items on its site. Had eBay lost the case, the online retailing giant might have been unable to offer name-brand goods on its shopping site, but the result also has shaped the outcome of other cases involving content distributors and trademark and copyright owners. Indeed, this one was a victory for the Internet.
The eBay case underlines a growing movement by trademark and copyright owners to put more onus on Internet companies to police their pages and make sure they’re not being used as a kind of black market. However, as BusinessWeek points out, “if the Web companies shoulder too much of the burden, their ability to wring a profit from the sales or the advertising that appears alongside the commerce could be compromised.”
The July 14 decision exposed the limitation of trademark protections and showed that sites are not responsible for illegal violations of rights holders’ trademarks as long as they remove infringing material when notified. That said, this case isn’t expected to have a direct impact on Viacom’s YouTube suit, which more thoroughly examines the question of takedown notices being sufficient to protect copyrighted content.