eBay's Chinese portal was in court again yesterday, accused of selling pirated digital books. The company's Chinese partner Eachnet Trading Company Ltd stands accused of infringing intellectual property rights. The case opened at Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court.
Hong Kong-based Digital Heritage Publishing Ltd and Shanghai People's Publishing House are suing eBay for selling their products without authorization on their auction website. A further claim is being made that the copies sold on eBay were pirated.
The two publishers are demanding 545,000 yuan (US$68,907) in compensation and a public apology.
According to the indictment, the website, www.ebay.com.cn, sold the electronic version of the Complete Collection in Four Libraries (Siku Quanshu), jointly owned by the two publishers, last November.
Siku Quanshu is a collection containing most of China's great texts up to the 18th century. The electronic version compiled by the two publishers retails at HK$85,000 (US$10,897), but the products sold on the website were priced at only 60 yuan (US$7.6).
Two employees of Digital Heritage Publishing Ltd were asked to purchase the products after the company found it available online. They appeared at the court as witnesses yesterday.
"I logged onto the website and found the products selling for about 60 yuan," said Chu Jie, a 26-year-old woman from the company's training department.
"I proceeded with the transaction and found the seller was a man named Li Xinlong from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
"I sent him the money by post and received a package several days later."
The product was examined by the company and found to be pirated.
"The website allowed and helped the seller to sell fake products," said attorney Yang.
"It has seriously violated our interests, and its actions were against the law."
Eachnet attorney Gao Jun however argued that all the transactions on eBay are between the seller and buyer only.
"We simply provide a platform for the transactions and it is impossible for us to check the products beforehand," he said.
"We encourage companies to register their trademark or products at our website, then if they find any of their products being sold without authorization they can report to us and we will delete the entry."
This is the third time the website has been sued in Shanghai for selling products violating trademarks or copyright.
"As far as I know, we have won all the previous cases," said Gao.
No verdict was reached yesterday.
(China Daily October 19, 2006)