Tiffany's Blues: NY Court Hands the Co. Tough Decision
Oh, the coveted little blue box. But is it the real deal? According to an on-going case in New York, that Tiffany item you got for a steal on eBay? Sometimes, a big fake. On April 1, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has found eBay is not liable for the trademark infringement and trademark dilution claims made by the historic jeweler. However, the court has not yet decided whether eBay is liable for false advertising claims over the fake Tiffany products that allegedly abound on the auction site.
According to the AP report for ABC News, Tiffany & Co. brought suit against eBay in 2004 claiming most of the supposedly genuine Tiffany products listed for sale or auction on the site were fakes. Although the court of appeals found that eBay did not violate the trademark claims at issue here, they have sent the claims regarding false adverting back to the trial court for further review.
The court has asked the lower court judge to reconsider the question of whether customers are actually confused by the statements on eBay about Tiffany products. In its decision, the court said, "The law requires us to hold eBay accountable for the words that it chose insofar as they misled or confused consumers."
The AP reports there is a limit to how much responsibility the company will have to take for the dealers pedaling faux Tiffany treats. eBay will not be required to stop selling Tiffany goods altogether, even if it knows some of them are fake. The court found that a disclaimer by the site may be sufficient warn buyers and protect the company. However, the court warned, "the law prohibits an advertisement that implies that all of the goods offered on a defendant's website are genuine when, in fact, as here, a sizeable proportion of them are not."
The case will return to the lower court for further action. For the rest of us, we might do well to remember that on eBay, as in the rest of the world, you usually get what you pay for. If that Tiffany diamond engagement ring bidding is hovering around $100.00, just walk away.
- NY Court Revives Tiffany's False Ad Claim Vs. eBay (AP, ABC News)
- What is false advertising? (FindLaw)
- Court: eBay Not Liable for Counterfeits (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Seller Beware: Stricter Product Resale Rules Apply on eBay, Sidewalk (FindLaw's Common Law)
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