Key facts of the case:
The Stokke GmbH company that is selling baby high chairs filed a law suit before the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht Hamburg) against the internet trading platform eBay, claiming that offers by competitors are displayed as hits when eBay visitors use trademark labels registered by the company as search words. In addition, the plaintiff complained that Google users are also mislead by the defendant due to an inappropriate use of Adwords. The Regional Court decided that the defendant was guilty of trademark infringement pursuant to Section 14 (2) No. 1, (5) of the Act on the Protection of Trade Marks and other Symbols (Gesetz über den Schutz von Marken und sonstigen Kennzeichen - MarkenG). Due to the plaintiff’s action for injunction eBay was ordered to prevent other customers from marketing chairs under trademark labels identical with those registered by the plaintiff. Against this decision eBay appealed.
Outcome of the case:
The court ruled that eBay is obliged to prevent future trademark infringements on its internet trading platform under the responsibilities laid down in the Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz – TMG) if it is notified by trademark holders about violations – otherwise it can be held liable (“Störerhaftung”). The decision was justified among others by a consideration of the competing fundamental rights of the plaintiff (right to property and right to an effective remdy), the defendant (freedom to conduct business) and eBay users as affected third party (right to data protection and freedom to conduct business) in the light of ECJ case law.
A different conclusion also cannot be drawn when balancing fundamental rights positions of the plaintiff, the defendant and of the suppliers of products on the internet trading platform.
On the part of the plaintiff the right to property pursuant to Article 17 of the Charter as well as the right to an effective remedy pursuant to Article 47 of the Charter is affected whereas on the part of the defendant the freedom to conduct a business under Article 16 of the Charter and the principle of proportionality are affected. With regard to the suppliers the fundamental right of the protection of personal data under Article 8 (2 ) S 1 as well as the freedom to conduct a business under Article 16 of the Charter is involved.
By interpreting EU directives, the national courts are bound to ensure a fair balance of fundamental rights, protected by the Union's legal order, as well as of general principles of Union law (cf. ECJ).