This excerpt taken from the EBAY 10-Q filed Jul 28, 2006.
We are subject to intellectual property and other litigation.
In April 2001, two of our European subsidiaries, eBay GmbH and eBay International AG, were sued by Montres Rolex S.A. and certain of its affiliates in the regional court of Cologne, Germany. The suit subsequently was transferred to the regional court in Düsseldorf, Germany. Rolex alleged that our subsidiaries were infringing Rolexs trademarks as a result of users selling counterfeit Rolex watches through our German website. The suit also alleged unfair competition. Rolex sought an order enjoining the sale of Rolex-branded watches on the website as well as damages. In December 2002, a trial was held in the matter and the court ruled in favor of eBay on all causes of action. Rolex appealed the ruling to the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf, and the appeal was heard in October 2003. In February 2004, the court rejected Rolexs appeal and ruled in our favor. Rolex has appealed the ruling to the German Federal Supreme Court, and a hearing is expected in December 2006. In September 2004, the German Federal Supreme Court issued its written opinion in favor of Rolex in a case involving an unrelated company, ricardo.de AG, but somewhat comparable legal theories. Although it is not yet clear what the ultimate effect of the reasoning of the German Federal Supreme Courts ricardo.de decision will have when applied to eBay, we believe the Courts decision has resulted in an increase in similar litigation against us in Germany, although we do not currently believe that it will require a significant change in our business practices.
In September 2001, MercExchange LLC filed a complaint against us, our Half.com subsidiary and ReturnBuy, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (No. 2:01-CV-736) alleging infringement of three patents (relating to online consignment auction technology, multiple database searching and electronic consignment systems) and seeking a permanent injunction and damages (including treble damages for willful infringement). In October 2002, the court granted in part our summary judgment motion, effectively invalidating the patent related to online auction technology and rendering it unenforceable. This ruling left only two patents in the case. Following a trial, in May 2003 the jury returned a verdict finding that eBay had willfully infringed one and Half.com had willfully infringed both of the patents in the suit, awarding $35 million in compensatory damages. Both parties
filed post-trial motions, and in August 2003, the court entered judgment for MercExchange in the amount of approximately $30 million plus pre-judgment interest and post-judgment interest in an amount to be determined, while denying MercExchanges request for an injunction and attorneys fees. We appealed the verdict and judgment in favor of MercExchange and MercExchange filed a cross-appeal of the granting in part of our summary judgment motion and the denial of its request for an injunction and attorneys fees.
In March 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling in the appeal of the MercExchange patent litigation suit which, among other things (1) invalidated all claims asserted against eBay and Half.com arising out of the multiple database search patent and reduced the verdict amount by $4.5 million; (2) upheld the electronic consignment system patent; (3) affirmed the district courts refusal to award attorneys fees or enhanced damages against us; (4) reversed the district courts order granting summary judgment in our favor regarding the auction patent; and (5) reversed the district courts refusal to grant an injunction and remanded that issue to the district court for further proceedings. The decision was stayed pending U.S. Supreme Court review of the injunction issue. In May 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision on whether an injunction should have been issued and remanded the case back to the district court for further action. In parallel with the federal court proceedings, at our request, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is actively reexamining each of the patents in suit, having found that substantial questions exist regarding the validity of the claims contained in them. In January 2005, the Patent and Trademark Office issued an initial ruling rejecting all of the claims contained in the patent that related to online auctions; in March 2005, the Patent and Trademark Office issued an initial ruling rejecting all of the claims contained in the patent that related to electronic consignment systems; and in May 2005, the Patent and Trademark Office issued an initial ruling rejecting all of the claims contained in the patent that related to multiple database searching. In March 2006, the Patent and Trademark Office affirmed its earlier ruling rejecting the claims contained in the patent that related to electronic consignment systems. Even if successful, our litigation of these matters will continue to be costly. In addition, as a precautionary measure, we have modified certain functionality of our websites and business practices in a manner which we believe would avoid any further infringement. For this reason, we believe that any injunction that might be issued by the district court will not have any impact on our business. We also believe we have appropriate reserves for this litigation. Nonetheless, if the district court were to issue an injunction on remand, and if the modifications to the functionality of our websites and business practices are not sufficient to make them non-infringing, we would likely be forced to pay significant additional damages and licensing fees and/or modify our business practices in an adverse manner.
In February 2005, eBay was sued in Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara (No. 105CV035930) in a purported class action alleging that certain bidding features of our site constitute shill bidding for the purpose of artificially inflating bids placed by buyers on the site. The complaint alleges violations of Californias Auction Act, Californias Consumer Remedies Act, and unfair competition. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, damages, and a constructive trust. In April 2005, we filed a demurrer seeking to dismiss the complaint, and a hearing on the demurrer was held in February 2006. In March 2006, the parties reached tentative agreement on the terms of a settlement. The court must approve the terms of the settlement in order for it to become final. The estimated settlement was accrued in our consolidated income statement for the year ended December 31, 2005.
In March 2005, eBay, PayPal, and an eBay seller were sued in Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings (No. 6125/05) in a purported class action alleging that certain disclosures regarding PayPals Buyer Protection Policy, users chargeback rights, and the effects of users choice of funding mechanism are deceptive and/or misleading. The complaint alleged misrepresentation on the part of eBay and PayPal, breach of contract and deceptive trade practices by PayPal, and that PayPal and eBay have jointly violated the civil RICO statute (18 U.S.C. Section 1961(4)). In April 2005, eBay and PayPal removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court (No. 05-CV-01720) repeating the allegations of the initial complaint but dropping the civil RICO allegations. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. Following several mediation sessions, the parties reached a tentative settlement in December 2005 and executed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2006. The parties are engaged in the process of finalizing the settlement documentation. The court must approve the terms of the settlement in order for it to become final. The estimated settlement was accrued in our consolidated income statement for the year ended December 31, 2005.
In June 2006, Net2Phone, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (No. 06-2469) alleging that eBay Inc., Skype Technologies S.A., and Skype Inc. infringed five patents owned by Net2Phone relating to point-to-point internet protocol. The suit seeks an injunction against continuing infringement, unspecified damages, including treble damages for willful infringement, and interest, expenses, and fees. This case is at a very early stage and we have not received a schedule from the court, or filed any responsive pleadings. We believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously.
Other third parties have from time to time claimed, and others may claim in the future, that we have infringed their intellectual property rights. We have been notified of several potential patent disputes, and expect that we will increasingly be subject to patent infringement claims as our services expand in scope and complexity. In particular, we expect to face additional patent infringement claims involving services we provide, including various aspects of our Payments and Communications businesses. We have in the past been forced to litigate such claims. We may also become more vulnerable to third-party claims as laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Lanham Act and the Communications Decency Act are interpreted by the courts and as we expand geographically into jurisdictions where the underlying laws with respect to the potential liability of online intermediaries like ourselves are either unclear or less favorable. These claims, whether meritorious or not, could be time consuming and costly to resolve, cause service upgrade delays, require expensive changes in our methods of doing business, or could require us to enter into costly royalty or licensing agreements.
From time to time, we are involved in other disputes or regulatory inquiries that arise in the ordinary course of business. The number and significance of these disputes and inquiries are increasing as our business expands and our company grows larger. Any claims or regulatory actions against us, whether meritorious or not, could be time consuming, result in costly litigation, require significant amounts of management time, and result in the diversion of significant operational resources.