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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 833 - August 23, 2004 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 4

eBay Sellers Charged With Trademark Infringement

By Mark Lewis
August 23, 2004

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Counterfeit merchandise sales continues to be a thorn in the side of eBay buyers and sellers, merchandise manufacturers and eBay itself. The Cartier International corporation and the Montblanc-Simplo corporation filed complaints in a California district court against eBay sellers Marina's Boutique Store, eBay ID mboutiquestore, and Verona Eyewear, eBay ID veronaeyewear, seeking damages for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising.

Silhouette International Schmied AG and its US subsidiary Silhouette Optical Ltd. also took action against Marina and Verona, obtaining a New York district court injunction to stop both parties from using Silhouette trademarks on their eBay sites.

The link between the two companies, if it exists, is still unclear, though both operate out of Glendale, California.

At the time of this writing, no products bearing the Cartier, Montblanc or Silhouette name appeared on either of the two sites. Verona Eyewear, however, continues to run an eBay store and Marina's Boutique Store continues to operate an eBay store and auctions.

Vachik Chakhbazian, owner of Verona Eyewear, claims that his company has no association with Marina's Boutique Store. Chakhbazian acknowledges that he posted various well-known trade names, which he was not selling, on his eBay Store site to increase traffic. ("Keyword spamming" and selling merchandise one does not possess are both against eBay policy.) He insists, however, that he legally purchases his eyewear wholesale at tradeshows and that he does not deal in counterfeit merchandise.

Since action was taken, Chakhbazian's PayPal account has been closed which, he claims, has cut his business by about 75%.

Marina's Boutique Store did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Both the Marina's Boutique Store and Verona Eyewear sites have been rated very highly by customers, with well over 95% positive feedback.

Cartier, Montblanc and Silhouette all declined to comment.

EBay also did not respond to requests for comment on this case. EBay, however, has claimed before that it is a "venue only" and is not responsible for the actions of its users regarding trademark or copyright infringement. Instead, through their VeRO program, eBay's "Verified Rights Owner" program for protecting intellectual property, eBay allows any person or company that holds intellectual property rights (such as a copyright, trademark or patent) to become a VeRO program member or IPO (intellectual property owner) and gives that member the option of shutting down auctions that they identify as selling counterfeit items. EBay has a page explaining the VeRO program at http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/vero-program.html.

Tiffany and Rolex have taken eBay to task on the issue of taking responsibility for the actions of their users (Shabby Chic Settles IP Lawsuit with eBay Sellers) though no company has yet been successful in forcing eBay to police sellers.

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About the author:

Mark Lewis is a teacher and freelance writer.

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