Supreme Court rules on jurisdiction in keyword case

In Louis Vuitton Malletier v eBay Inc (December 7 2010), the French Supreme Court has dismissed a motion by eBay Inc and eBay International (collectively eBay).
In yet another dispute between Louis Vuitton Malletier and eBay, the latter raised a procedural motion to have the case remanded either to the United States or to Switzerland, alleging that the French court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Since the aim of the appeal decision, which was disputed, was to withdraw the case from the French court, the Supreme Court decided that the appeal was immediately acceptable, even if no decision on the merits had been made.
The Supreme Court found that the French court had jurisdiction over the case, which involved claims of trademark infringement and unfair competition due to the sale of Louis Vuitton's trademarks as keywords. The court concluded that an internet user who entered the keywords at issue in search engines would generate sponsored links leading to auction sites which were managed by eBay and targeted French users.  
The Supreme Court took into consideration the fact that:
  • the advertisements were written in French;
  • the prices were in euros; and
  • the products sold on the auction sites were delivered in France.
The appeal court had also taken into account the fact that, when searching for the keywords at issue, the user would generate commercial links on the '' website which were linked to the US branch of eBay.
The Supreme Court decided that the appeal court, which rendered a decision only on the appropriate forum, was not empowered to limit, from a territorial point of view, the extent of the damages likely to be repaired.
With this decision, the Supreme Court is clearly telling the lower courts that the fact that a website is accessible from the French territory is not sufficient in itself to conclude that a French court is the appropriate forum. 
Richard Milchior, Granrut Avocats, Paris

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