It's not big news that counterfeit items can be purchased on eBay but the lawsuit by Tiffany against eBay
may be a turning point for the fight against counterfeits at the popular auction website. In his opening statement in the suit, James Swire, a lawyer for Tiffany, said that a full 75% of 325 items that Tiffany has bought on eBay through a buying program the company started in 2004 were counterfeit. That's a pretty damning statistic. The lawsuit alleges that eBay has failed to stem the tide of counterfeit Tiffany merchandise available for sale on their website. According to the Wall Street Journa
l, Bruce Rich, eBay's lawyer, said the company is always working to ferret out sellers of fraudulent goods and has always been responsive to the complaints from Tiffany. Tiffany first sued eBay in 2004 saying that they should automatically screen their listings for counterfeit products. Mr. Rich's take is that according to federal trademark law it is the responsibility of the trademark holder to deal with counterfeiters. He also said that hundreds of thousands of sellers have had their accounts suspended after reports of counterfeit sales. The Verified Owner Rights program
on eBay does provide an online form through which a company can notify eBay that their intellectual property rights are being infringed upon and this often results in the auction listing being pulled.
This is far from the only suit that has faced eBay over counterfeiting. They have faced legal action from Louis Vuitton and Rolex over the same problem. In 2001, Rolex sued eBay's German subsidiary for trademark infringement and lost. Earlier this year, Germany's top court ruled that eBay must do more to halt the sale of counterfeit goods on its site.
For the consumer who wants to avoid counterfeit merchandise on eBay, a little research can make a big difference. Looking at the feedback score of the seller and reading the comments can give you some insight into the seller's history. A feedback score of at least 99 percent is best. Also when you are in the seller's history click on the past auctions. If this seller has sold a lot of similar or even identical branded items this is a big red flag. Also, sadly, if it sounds too good to be true and the price is really low you may be looking at a fake.
Another option for online brand name shopping is Portero, an auction site
which guarantees 100% authenticity and sells directly to the consumer rather than through sellers. The only problem with Portero is that it is a much smaller operation and the selection is limited. Also the prices are generally higher.