REIMS, France (AFP) — Online auction giant eBay was convicted by a French court Wednesday of selling counterfeit goods and ordered to pay 20,000 euros (30,000 dollars) in damages to French luxury group Hermes.
The court ruling, which marks a first in France, found eBay directly responsible for the sale on its website of three Hermes bags including two fakes, for a total of 3,000 euros.
The US auction site was ordered to pay damages jointly with the woman who put the bags up for sale.
"By selling Hermes bags and branded accessories on the eBay.fr site, and by failing to act within their powers to prevent reprehensible use of the site," the user and eBay "committed acts of counterfeiting and imitation of French brand names ... to the detriment of Hermes international," said the ruling.
The court also ordered eBay to publish the ruling on its French homepage for three months.
Contacted by AFP, eBay declined to comment. The auction house has repeatedly said it seeks to cooperate with manufacturers to fight counterfeiting, which it has described as a "scourge."
"We are satisfied that they should be considered counterfeiters," said Hermes' lawyer Emmanuel Colomes, who had been seeking 30,000 euros in damages for complicity in the sale of counterfeit goods.
The French union of manufacturers UNIFAB welcomed the ruling as an important step in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting.
Luxury fashion houses Louis Vuitton and Dior Couture have also taken legal action against eBay before the Paris commercial court, respectively seeking 20 million and 17 million euros in damages.
Both brands accuse eBay of complicity in the sale of counterfeit goods by allowing buyers and sellers to transact without imposing any controls.
Also in France, the auction industry took legal action against the online giant last December, accusing it of encouraging trade in pirated and stolen goods.
And in a potentially major case, the cosmetics giant L'Oreal last September launched legal action against eBay in five European countries including France, over the sale of bottles of counterfeit perfume.
At the Hermes trial in the eastern French city of Troyes in April, Colomes had argued that eBay was more than a mere host for the counterfeit items.
"eBay is an active player in the transaction because not only does it offer a number of services to improve the sale, but when it does not work well enough or fast enough, they intervene with the client," he said.
"They are perfectly informed of the transactions since they take a percentage cut."
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