eBay takes a leaf out of eToys' book.
February 27, 2001 6:26 PM   Subscribe

eBay takes a leaf out of eToys' book. Everybody's favourite auction site is threatening legal action against EBay Pty Limited, an Australian company that’s been around for twenty years but only got online recently. eBay has the ebay.com.au domain name, so EBay bought ebayaust.com in late 1999 for their small business selling self-published books.

Now eBay wants EBay to stop using the name both online and offline, the latter of which seems highly dubious given the relative ages of the companies.

In what is becoming an increasingly global marketplace, where do we draw the line between disparate companies with similar names?
posted by Georgina (6 comments total)
These situations are a joke, i have a friend who's step father owns a company in Sydney Australia called Virgin Wheels, they got many a threating letter from Mr. Branson's Virgin to stop using the word Virgin in his business.

Companies that do this should be shot.
posted by Zool at 7:09 PM on February 27, 2001

'Email' springs to mind. They've been making airconditioners, washing machines, petrol pumps etc (they were Orange, NSWs largest employer when I lived their in the early 80s).

Surprised that haven't filed a suit: 'Email Pty Ltd, Australia vs The World - your use of the term 'email' dilutes our intellectual property and implies that your communications facilities were produced or endorsed by our clients...'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:10 PM on February 27, 2001

Zool, it's too bad you can't actually shoot a company. I know of a few I'd like to shoot...
posted by Potsy at 9:54 PM on February 27, 2001

it's too bad you can't actually shoot a company...

You can shoot them, they just DON'T BLEED!
posted by jpoulos at 6:47 AM on February 28, 2001

Reminds me of the time when Walmart came to Canada and tried to stop a small mom-and-pop store called Wool Mart from using that name because it was too similar to Walmart...Walmart was roundly ridiculed for those actions.
This is what happens when a business gets big without the use of business ethics.
posted by slackbash at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2001

I lost a pretty long post about this when my preview page blanked out, so y'all are lucky. ;-) Summary:

* trademark collisions happened before the internet and will continue to happen

* there's no guarantee that eBay auctions will win: compare clue.com and vw.net cases. Hasbro just lost, but Volkswagen actually ended up defending itself against a cybersquatting charge. Australian law probably roughly similar odds.

* trademark law REQUIRES vigorous defense otherwise the mark becomes generic, so companies MUST be obtuse about these things. A C&D order is in many cases just a nuisance and does not constitute winning or forcing. It may result in a settlement.

* there was a case around 1999 with an Australian trademark in use for some 20 years where an American company started using the same two common English words for a product (maybe "Business Sense" or something like that). the upshot of that will be a signal for this case.
posted by dhartung at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2001

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