Originally posted on February 27, 2014.
Did you ever wonder what happened in the Val Colbert declaratory judgment action against Chanel? Yeah, I forgot about it too, and evidently I was not alone. Because something did happen, and no one seemed to notice.
But more about that in a minute. Here’s why I even thought of it.
Lady calls me up — can I do anything for her? She sells, or someone else sells but she sells them for her, or the other way around — anyway, there were these listings on eBay, for buttons that were removed from authentic designer clothing. In other words, authentic designer buttons, being sold detached from the clothing they came in with.
And eBay, it appears, removed these listings, and there ought to be a law!
There is a law, actually. It’s the law of contracts, and, all things being equal (yes, they never are, but let us say it), it’s the law that governs almost everyone’s relationship with eBay, which is a private company. Your contract with eBay, as a seller or a buyer, is of course subject to its rules and regulations. And just like Mom’s and Dad’s rules and regulations, and those of almost any private party that are not restricted by the criminal law or civil rights concerns, those rules can be whatever the parties agree to. Or, in the case of eBay, whatever anyone who wants to play has to agree to, because for most of us, eBay will not negotiate.
eBay will negotiate with others, however — others who are not like you and me because they are rich , if only (though seldom only) in brand equity. These parties have, at least in theory, the ability to upset the nice way it’s going for eBay, litigation-wise, on IP issues such as secondary liability for trademark infringement.
And these parties, many of whom are designers, really really really hate it when people do anything — anything! — well, anything other than burn it up or shoot it into outer space — with the hardware, buttons or other stuff bearing their logos but not the stuff they were originally attached to. I should not have to explain why they hate this. And by all indications, they have made this fact clear to eBay, which, despite what you think, mostly wants to work with these outfits. For the goose does continue to lay very nicely the golden eggs.
And eBay hears it.
So, we know, again, that eBay can remove your listing for any reason or for no reason, almost all the time. Many of the reasons it does have for such removals do exist, however, and they have to do with intellectual property — and not always with infringement, much less counterfeiting. No, your authentic stuff may be pulled from eBay even though it is authentic, as eBay explains:
If we removed your listing, it’s probably because it either violated the law or one of our policies. Or, it may have been removed because the item’s rights owner (for example, Coach or Louis Vuitton) asked us to remove it. This can happen even if your item is genuine.
So how about the buttons, the ribbons, the hardware? For your non-listing pleasure, here is the specific rule that you agreed to when you agreed to sell on eBay which addresses that question: Read More…