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Fashionable Fight: Court Rules for Louis Vuitton Against eBay

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 16, 2010 11:47 AM

Keywords, Adwords, trademarks, counterfeits, it's enough to make a legalista fall off her Choos. The latest case in the bag-full of legal issues between Silicon Valley's eBay and LVMH owned French fashion house Louis Vuitton, was decided at least for now, in a French court on February 11.

According to an AP report on MSNBC, the Parisian court found in favor of LV in its suit to keep eBay from purchasing keywords related to its name from Google's Adwords. These purchased keywords help determine which "Sponsored Links" will be amongst a web searcher's Google results.

MSNBC writes that LV sued eBay for its purchase and use of such search terms as "Viton," "Vitton" and "Wuiton" so that online shoppers typing these misspellings into a search engine, along with anyone using the brand's correct spelling, would be directed to links promoting eBay, said a Louis Vuitton spokeswoman. LV successfully argued to the French court that such use diminished the LV brand and harmed its image with consumers.

eBay remains undaunted and says it will appeal. According to CNET News, Yohan Ruso, director general of eBay in France, said in a statement, "This case is about the use of Adwords to direct buyers' listings for authentic goods from eBay sellers. This issue is being used by certain Rights Owners as an excuse to retain total control of what people can buy, where they can buy it from, and how much they have to pay." The U.S. company also pointed to a similar case it has just won in Belgium against American fashion giant, Ralph Lauren.

CNET reports LV is still pursuing other actions against eBay for failing to crackdown on counterfeit LV goods sold on its site, as required by a Paris Commercial Court ruling handed down in 2008. eBay was fined over the same issue again in 2009.

According to MSNBC, although the court in this case called eBay's actions "parasitic," it only rewarded LV a fraction of the damages the House requested, granting them €200,000, or $275,200 in damages, plus €30,000, or $41,300 in legal costs, instead of the €1.2 million sought by the French conglomerate. After lawyer's fees, that should leave just about enough to buy two, maybe three LV bags. Those exchange rates are just murder.

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