- Nastygrams fly at Christmas time over display and festival use of “Jingle Bells”, Grinch, etc. [Elefant]
- Claims that smoking ban led to instantaneous plunge in cardiac deaths in Scotland turns out to be as fishy as similar claims elsewhere [Siegel on tobacco via Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”]
- Myths about the costs and consequences of an automaker Chapter 11 filing [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; Boudreaux, WSJ] Drowning in mandates and Congress throws them an anchor [Jenkins, WSJ]
- Mikal Watts may be the most generous of the trial lawyers bankrolling the Texas Democratic Party’s recent comeback [Texas Watchdog via Pero]
- Disney settles ADA suit demanding Segway access at Florida theme parks “by agreeing to provide disabled guests with at least 15 newly-designed four-wheeled vehicles.” [OnPoint News, earlier]
- Update on Scientology efforts to prevent resale of its “e-meter” devices on eBay [Coleman]
- Scary: business-bashing lawprof Frank Pasquale wants the federal government to regulate Google’s search algorithm [Concurring Opinions, SSRN]
- Kind of an endowment all by itself: “Princeton is providing $40 million to pay the legal fees of the Robertson family” (after charges of endowment misuse) [MindingTheCampus]
Now it’s software makers talking about suing the auction provider for not doing more to police the sale of pirated copies. In contrast to the unsuccessful action by Tiffany ruled on earlier this month, such a suit might rely on copyright as opposed to trademark law. (Holly Jackson, “Software makers threaten to sue eBay over counterfeits”, CNet, Jul. 25).
Meanwhile, Roger Parloff at Fortune checked and found eBay was not exactly complying with that very sweeping court injunction obtained by luxury goods maker LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) which required the removal of relevant auctions not only on ebay.fr but on the American site and other affiliates if persons in France are able to access those sites. (Jul. 16).
The ruling (Slashdot) seems relatively unsurprising given the favorable posture of U.S. law toward online middlemen like eBay, but a number of readers have asked about how it relates to the ruling the other week by a French court in favor of much more sweeping claims against eBay by luxury goods maker LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). The answer, unfortunately, may not be simply that the various eBay sites have to follow different local rules depending on where they are based or to whom a purchase is being shipped. Per Roger Parloff’s Fortune piece, the earlier ruling “applies to all eBay sites worldwide to the extent that they are accessible from France, and not merely to the company’s French site at ebay.fr, according to [French lawyers on both sides]”.
The verdict in a French court, if upheld, won’t just compel the online auction site to police its listings for counterfeits of luggage, perfume and other status goods, but also will knock out “gray market” goods (product originating in authorized channels, but sold in a different market than intended). “It would even bar individuals from reselling LVMH perfumes that they had received, for instance, as unwanted Christmas presents, both lawyers say.” (Parloff, Fortune)(cross-posted from Point of Law).
Steve Shellhorn didn’t leave negative feedback after a not entirely satisfactory transaction on the online auction site, but “neutral” feedback can harm reputation too, according to the seller’s suit. Although a judge in the plaintiff’s Buncombe County, N.C. home court threw out the action, “It cost Shellhorn $500 to hire an attorney. ‘I’m very leery. I won’t leave feedback for people anymore,’ he said.” (Jesse Jones, KING5 News (Seattle), Apr. 24).
Mary Jo Pletz, who lives north of Allentown, Pa., made a very successful time of it accepting people’s consigned items and selling them on eBay. Now the state of Pennsylvania is proceeding against her for not taking out an auctioneer’s license, though it denies that it is seeking the $10 million in fines that her lawyer alleges. (Bob Fernandez, “Pennsylvania takes on online auctions”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 30). Earlier similarly: Feb. 26, 2006 (California); Oct. 13, 2005 (North Dakota); Mar. 21, 2005 (Ohio).
A Labour-run municipal authority in Wales has sacked nine workers after discovering that they were spending up to two hours of their workday on eBay, but “union officials said that the employer had ‘put temptation in their way’ by allowing computer access to external internet sites. They called on all large employers to install a firewall program to prevent staff from being distracted by sites such as eBay, BBC Online and those that provide gambling.” (Simon de Bruxelles, “Office staff lose their jobs after bosses catch them trading on eBay”, Times Online, Sept. 21)(via ABA Journal).
Although trademark law certainly has plenty of intricacies, the essence of trademarks is the protection of consumers from confusion in the marketplace. When one buys goods or services, one should be able to know the manufacturer of those goods or provider of those services. Except, of course, when lawyers get involved; then trademarks are just used by large businesses to stifle competition. Infoworld reports on how some companies are abusing trademarks to shut down smaller competitors on EBay. EBay, to avoid liability for trademark infringement by its sellers, is quick to shut down any auction when a trademark holder complains. And then makes it difficult for the seller to reverse the decision:
As she began the process of getting EBay to reinstate her account – which includes having to take a condescending online tutorial on intellectual property and swearing that you’ll never be bad again – the reader also was able to contact with other EBay sellers whose Don Ed Hardy auctions had been taken down. “Some sellers who had not yet actually sold any Don Ed Hardy goods were told by the fraud department that ‘test purchases’ had proven their goods were counterfeit,” the reader wrote. “Some were told that it didn’t matter they could prove their merchandise was authentic – Don Ed Hardy would continue to take down their listings via VeRO by citing ‘violation of a trade agreement’ between the company and its distributors. And all were threatened as I was with trademark litigation that could result in treble damages, paying their legal costs, etc.”
But the threat of running up legal fees with trademark lawsuits isn’t just felt by individual EBay sellers; even large companies — like ABC television — are afraid to fight ridiculous claims of trademark infringement:
“Sam I Am” isn’t—anymore.
The planned ABC fall comedy starring Christina Applegate has changed its name to “Samantha Be Good” after receiving a “cease-and-desist” letter from lawyers representing the rights-holder to Dr. Seuss characters, an attorney said Tuesday.
“We asserted a trademark infringement claim,” in a May 17 letter to ABC, said Jonathan B. Sokol, an attorney representing San Diego-based Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LP.
“People worldwide associate those characters with Dr. Seuss books and … Dr. Seuss vigilantly protects its trademark rights,” Sokol said.
The TV show’s original title might have confused people as to whether the company was sponsoring or otherwise involved with the program, Sokol said.
This is just a guess, but it’s unlikely that someone watching a sitcom in which Christina Applegate has amnesia is going to confuse it with Green Eggs And Ham, a book in which a cartoon character tries to entice another cartoon character to eat unkosher food with classic lines like “Could you, would you, with a goat?”
…is not enough contact with the buyer’s state to subject you to the jurisdiction of its courts, according to a judge on Staten Island who ruled that
even New York’s “long arm” law has its limits. (Mark Fass, “Contact Held Insufficient to Sue eBay Seller”, New York Law Journal, Mar. 7). I discussed the rise of long-arm jurisdiction, and the powerful impetus it can provide to litigation in many situations, in Chapter 4 (PDF) of my book The Litigation Explosion.
P.S. As commenter Elliot points out, “even” was not the mot juste in this circumstance; New York’s long-arm statute has never been interpreted as liberally as, say, California’s.