Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Deep Linking

eBay Sues Auction Comparison Web Site for Infringement

E-Commerce Law Weekly December 21, 1999

Websites that function as auction-comparison sites -- consolidating information from multiple auction websites so that auction shoppers can look for bargains in one convenient place -- may have to rethink their business models if the giant of online auctions has its way.

The San Jose, Calif. company eBay, Inc., which pioneered the burgeoning Internet auction market, filed a lawsuit Dec. 10 against the Massachusetts company Bidders Edge, claiming that defendant’s indexing of and links to information on the eBay website infringes on eBay’s copyrights and is trespassory and unfair use of the eBay site (eBay Inc. v. Bidder’s Edge, D. Calif., No. 0-99 21200, filed 12/10/99).

The lawsuit’s complaint accuses Bidder’s Edge of a wide range of tortious activity under California and federal law, including trespass to personal property, unfair business practices, copyright infringement, misappropriation, false advertising, federal trademark dilution, injury to business reputation, interference with prospective economic advantage, and unjust enrichment. eBay seeks monetary damages and restitution for unjust enrichment.

The complaint, which demands a jury trial, states in its trespass to personal property claim that "defendant has used, accessed, and intermeddled with and continues to use, access, and intermeddle with eBay’s computer systems for defendant’s own commercial benefit." Similar language, asserting that Bidders Edge has misused or taken eBay’s property, is used to underscore eBay’s misappropriation and unjust enrichment claims.

Other claims in the complaint are grounded in federal intellectual property law, with specific allegations of copyright infringement and trademark dilution. With regard to the latter, the complaint states that "Bidder’s Edge’s repeated display of the mark EBAY in its categorized auction listings and its ‘All Auction Search’ results page have diluted and continue to dilute the distinctive quality of the EBAY mark."