Today the UK High Court ruled against L’Oréal mirroring the French courts decision from last week. In court, of the 15 products hand-selected by L’Oreal as evidence against eBay UK, not a single one was proven to be counterfeit.
The High Court ruled in favour of eBay on all counts and has also referred a number of items to the European Court of Justice for clarification and confirmation. eBay say that they welcome the move as they hope that it will help to inform the debate on the sale of goods on the internet – something that the European Commission is already addressing with the drafting of new guidelines on the extent to which companies can restrict online trade.
Richard Ambrose, eBay Head of Trust & Safety, said of the decision “This is an important judgment because it ensures that consumers can continue to buy genuine products at competitive prices on eBay. As such, it is a victory for consumers and the thousands of entrepreneurs who sell legitimate goods on eBay every day.” The big question is is it safe for sellers to start listing L’Oréal and Lancôme products on eBay again?
In a written statement in August 2007 when the court cases were announced Lancôme UK said the company “wishes to protect the quality of the distribution of its products via its selective distribution networks and service to consumers.” and that “L’Oréal carries out monitoring of relevent activity and takes action where necessary to prevent infringement of its intellectual property rights.”
Whilst it’s clear that the courts won’t allow L’Oréal to prevent genuine items from being sold online, they still have a powerful weapon in the form of VeRO. RIchard Ambrose also said today “We reiterate again that cooperation and dialogue is what is needed, not litigation. Only by working together can we collectively address the issues that concern eBay, rights owners and consumers.”
It’s to be hoped that “working together” will be a two way dialogue and involve eBay upholding VeRO claims where the intention is to remove genuinely counterfeit items from the site, whilst rejecting those placed simply to control the marketplace, enabling sellers to trade freely within the law.