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eBay, Inc. v. Bidder's Edge, Inc., 100 F.Supp.2d 1058 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (full-text).

Factual Background[]

Bidder's Edge used a crawler to scan eBay's website about 100,000 times per day to access information on ongoing auctions, which it then posted on its own site.

Trial Court Proceedings[]

Ebay moved for preliminary injunctive relief based on nine causes of action: 1) trespass to chattels; 2) false advertising; 3) and 4) federal and state trademark dilution; 5) computer fraud and abuse; 6) unfair competition; 7) misappropriation; 8) interference with prospective economic advantage; and, 9) unjust enrichment.

The court agreed with eBay that the crawler interfered with its possessory interest in its computer systems to an extent not authorized, and that the interference caused it harm, noting that

[c]onduct that does not amount to a substantial interference with possession, but which consists of intermeddling with or use of another's personal property, is sufficient to establish a cause of action for trespass to chattels.[1]

While California law dictates that the appropriate measure of damages is the actual harm inflicted, the Federal Circuit held in Atlas Powder Co. v. Ireco Chemicals[2] that a preliminary injunction may be based, at least in part, on the harm that would occur if a preliminary injunction were denied and infringers were encouraged to continue their activity towards a patented framework during the course of litigation.

Because eBay posted a licensing agreement limiting "crawling" activity, the court found that

eBay's licensing activities appear directed toward limiting the amount and nature of crawling activity on the eBay site...[which] does not support the inference that carte blanche crawling of the eBay site would pose no threat of irreparable harm.

As for harm, the court noted that "any deprivation of the ability to use . . . personal property for [the owner's] own purposes" will suffice to shown harm. The court also noted that even a small trespass, if allowed, would encourage others to trespass and in the aggregate will cause significant harm.[3]

Because Bidder's Edge's activity was unauthorized and found to have potential effects of causing damage to eBay's system, the court held that injunctive relief should be granted (as eBay had proven that it was likely to prevail on the trespass claim).


  1. Id. at 1070, citing Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek, 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468 (1996) (full-text).
  2. 773 F.2d 1230, 227 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 289 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (full-text).
  3. 100 F.Supp.2d at 1066.