Posted August 12, 2008 1:48 pm by with 9 comments

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EBay has the “honor” of being in the Wall Street Journal headlines twice today. So what do you want to read about regarding eBay today; trademark infringement or merchants leaving eBay for other smaller niche auction sites ? Looks like eBay may want a little ORM in place to handle this current flood of “news”.

For this post’s purposes we will look at the trademark story. On the heels of a July victory stemming from a 2004 suit brought against them by Tiffany & Co. regarding the sales of fake goods on the auction site, eBay will have to suffer through the appeals process before victory is theirs. Apparently Tiffany’s doesn’t agree with the ruling handed down by US District Court Judge Richard Sullivan. It was Tiffany’s contention that eBay was not doing enough to prevent counterfeit goods from being sold on their site. The ruling stated that trademark holders like Tiffany’s, not eBay, “bore the main responsibility for monitoring eBay’s auction site for fake goods.” Tiffany’s response was “that the court’s ruling failed to apply established principles of trademark law.”

Well, eBay seems to be just fine with the ruling regarding its responsibility in the sale of fake goods via their site auctions. In fact, eBay has taken a few legal shots regarding this in European courts so a victory was a nice change of pace. eBay’s response was:

“Tiffany’s decision to carry this litigation on after the District Court’s decision doesn’t do anything to combat counterfeiting. The best way to stop counterfeiting is ongoing collaboration between companies, government agencies and law enforcement.”

Nice way to eliminate themselves from that process, huh? I gotta believe that eBay should have SOME responsibility in policing this stuff. It’s like saying that iTunes shouldn’t be responsibility for any licensing of songs they sell. Just let them collect the cash and then the record companies should be the trademark cops. Seems to me that both parties should have some stake in making sure that the customer is not getting ripped off if indeed they actually believe they are getting Tiffany’s jewelry. Chances are anyone who is able to afford that kind of thing isn’t fishing on eBay for a bargain anyway.

So where should the line be drawn? When selling and reselling goods online who should be legally responsible for the policing of trademark issues? Should internet marketers be able to simply wash their hands of the obligation? Is there an ethical or moral aspect to this as well? Lots to consider and it should be interesting how this ruling does or does not hold up under the appeals process.

  • You can’t compare eBay auctions to iTunes music downloads. Apple controls the entire iTunes system while eBay is just a facilitator.

    There is no cost effective method for eBay to insure that what someone lists for sale is the same as the item they are selling. there is a certain level of trust involved. If a buyer does not trust a seller they are free to use an escrow service.

    HMTKSteve’s last blog post..Abu-Bakr Muhammad ben Yahya as-Suli: The Great Chess Master of the Arab World

  • You are entirely right. It is up to the consumer either to use this or that service

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  • Policing eBay for fake goods is quite like policing YouTube for copyrighted content – a lost battle, in my opinion.

    Otilia Otlacan’s last blog post..Yahoo Launches Fire Eagle – More Ad Targeting Opportunities?

  • ebay is already very pro-buyer in their rules. If fraud is established, ebay try their utmost to right the wrong for the buyers.

    Penalizing them for some errant sellers and forcing more stringent rules may just make the marketplace impossible for other sellers.

    jeflin’s last blog post..Overhead Supply Can Trap Your Money

  • You know, I agree with jeflin – ebay has recently become extremely pro-buyer… but if you ask me, that would lean toward them doing more to prevent people passing fakes off as the real thing. I don’t entirely understand why they would force a company that has nothing to do with ebay to police ebay for products that are being sold ON ebay…. none of which having anything to do with Tiffany’s. All that makes my head hurt.

    Couple this with the ruling between Google and Viacom, and I’m a little concerned about the US Court’s ability to rule in cases involving the Internet. It just seems too easy to pull the wool over a judge’s eyes with misinformation. Dang.

    Erika’s last blog post..Miami Web Design

  • Ebay like any other business HAS to be pro buyer. The guy who puts the money down is the one to be protected. So, where is the dichotomy?

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..My Tryst With Hard Drive Recovery

  • Joseph Hoe

    I am a seller with 100% Feedback.
    Member since Sept 2007 Did Over $70,000 in sales the first 12 months.

    Ten days after Ebay eliminated seller feed back I was extorted, threatened with a negative feedback if I did not sent a second charger for the phone.
    Only one charger was included in the auction.
    The buyer’s extortion e-mail was nearly word for word the example EBay lists as an example of extortion.
    Yet EBay did nothing.

    I have had a buyer open a dispute 36 days after the auction. My Return policy is seven days from receipt no questions asked, no exceptions. (100% refund)

    I feel the sellers are guilty to proven innocent. Are we not in America?
    Looking for an alternative to Ebay( FEEBAY).

  • that is a so beautiful blog I have seen, hope you have a nice day.