eBay are suing the owners of the website “perfumebay.com” for trademark infringement. The case has been going on since 2004, but now Jacquelyn Tran, the owner of PerfumeBay, has started a blog to tell her side of the story. The blog, as you might expect, is full of brave statements about not giving in to a big company, and it seems that Perfume Bay have many supporters in their fight. But I can’t help thinking there’s more to this than a little company fighting for survival against a corporate bully.
The domain name “perfumebay.com” has been registered since July 1999. Is it possible an internet trader in 1999 wasn’t aware of eBay? Is it possible that someone could have selected a domain name which combined the letter e and the word bay by coincidence? An explanation of the website’s name is conspicuously lacking from the blog, so one has to wonder exactly what was going through Ms Tran’s mind when she chose her URL.
In the November 2005 initial judgement [pdf, opens in new window], Ms Tran was told to separate the “perfume” and “bay” elements of her URL so that it no longer reads “ebay”. She states that this is not possible because “internet regulations do not allow a URL to be registered with a space or an underscore, so we would have to change our entire URL and therefore lose all the branding awareness, search engine rankings and momentum we had made with our marketing campaign”. However, hyphens are perfectly net-legal, and it seems that at one point the domain was defaulting to perfume-bay.com, and currently, perfume-bay.com now points to perfumebay.com. The judgement gave Perfume Bay the right to use perfumebay.com as a forwarding URL until March 2006. One might again wonder whether the continued publicity from fighting the case would, in fact, be in their interests?
I’ve tried to contact Ms Tran for further clarification on these issues over the last few days, but it seems that the email address which is her only given contact information is no longer functioning; the Perfume Bay site itself seems to be lacking any kind of contact information, and emails sent to @perfumebay.com addresses are being bounced by Yahoo. If she’d like to contact us, we’d be very happy to hear from her.
That said, eBay are doing themselves no favours by pursuing this case. The Perfume Bay site bears no resemblance to eBay past or present: there is no way that any consumer could confuse the two. Though they have previously forced several other companies using the word “bay” in their domain names to change their name, what they have done here is got Ms Tran a lot of free publicity, and created some very negative press for themselves.