eBay goes after SA company fighting to keep website open

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Cue the David and Goliath similes. eBay is trying to get a South African property site called RentBay to close up shop, claiming its name is deceptive to its customers.

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The site’s owners, Tenant Profile Network (TPN) reportedly received a letter from the ecommerce giant telling it that it had “deceived” eBay’s millions of customers. The lawyers also instructed TPN to quit using the rentbay.co.za URL and the trademark RentBay.

According to the Business Day, TPN sells information on tenant behaviour to property owners and runs RentBay — a property listings site — without charge.

eBay says the site “deception or confusion” for its users and that it takes “unfair advantage” of eBay’s trademarks. According to Business Day, eBay began legal proceedings against TPN after the South African company tried to settle the dispute amicably.

TPN MD Michelle Dickens reckons that eBay has absolutely no case.

“Do visitors really come to Rentbay.co.za thinking they’ve found eBay?” she asked.

“To understand what brings visitors to us, we looked at our analytics. Since 2008, we have not attracted a single visitor who searched for eBay and ended up with us. That’s right: zero.”

She also said the company would refuse to roll over to the ecommerce giant’s demands:

“They’re a listed business based in the US with a market capitalisation of US$65.5-billion. We’re a tenant credit bureau based in Johannesburg; the closest we get to 65-billion is converting our turnover into Zim dollars”.

“They sell voodoo spells and cornflakes shaped like Illinois. We help landlords rent out flats in Randburg. We’re in the property business. They were in the property business. And they’re suing us.”

TPN reportedly has until 14 December to submit opposing papers to eBay.

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