LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER V/ eBAY, INC. ET EBAY INTERNATIONAL AG
Cour de Cassation - Chambre Commerciale / Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), Commercial Chamber May 3, 2012 :
- Parties : Louis Vuitton Malletier v / eBay, Inc. and eBay International AG
- Subject Matter : Online sale - Jurisdiction of the French Courts
- Trademark : LOUIS VUITTON
Louis Vuitton Malletier found that advertisers have been offering infringing counterfeit LOUIS VUITTON products via the auction sites ebay.uk and ebay.com. It brought action for infringement against the companies eBay Inc and eBay International AG before the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris / Commercial Court of Paris.
Louis Vuitton accused the EBay companies of not having ensured that their activities did not generate any illicit acts and of having fostered acts of infringement.
The EBay companies submitted that the French Court did not have jurisdiction, on the grounds that "in matters involving tort, the courts having jurisdiction are the competent courts of the State in the territories in which the offending website is accessible, if its activity is directed toward Internet users of this State " and that " it should be in relation to the activity of the offending website itself, and not of some other site that the concept of “directed” activity should be assessed."
With regard to the website ebay.uk, the Cour d’Appel de Paris / Paris Court of Appeal deemed that the site ebay.fr had repeatedly and frequently prompted French Internet users to consult the site in order to expand their search options and to benefit by carrying out commercial transactions, such that there was a complementarity between these two sites, and that the site ebay.uk had therefore directly been addressing French Internet users.
With regard to the website ebay.com, the Cour d’Appel held that "the suffix " .com " constituted a generic " TLD " (Top Level Domain) which was intended to appeal to the public at large and that French Internet users could view ad listings posted online on this site from the site ebay.fr and were indeed even encouraged to do so ".
The Cour d’Appel thus recognised the jurisdiction of the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris and upheld its judgment inasmuch as it recognised that the ebay sites had committed acts of infringement.
The EBay companies appealed to the Cour de Cassation / the (Supreme) Court of Cassation.
The Cour de Cassation upheld the judgment of the Cour d’Appel de Paris in respect of the site ebay.uk. With regard to the ebay.com site, it deemed, however, that the above cited grounds were not appropriate to establish that the site was directly addressing its services to the public in France, that the decision of the Cour d’Appel de Paris was thus lacking in legal basis, and that its judgment was therefore overturned.
The Cour de Cassation has reaffirmed through this decision that it cannot be inferred merely from the generic nature of a domain name extension (.com, .org, .biz, etc) that it is aimed at addressing the general public, and that the assessment of the target audience of such a site should be carried out in concreto by using a range of indicators such as the language of the website, the countries to which delivery is possible and even the currencies accepted for payment.