Tiffany at odds with eBay over hooky items

eBay is facing a law suit from jewellery maker Tiffany for its part in ‘facilitating’ counterfeiting.

According to the New York Times, Tiffany bought around 200 test items from eBay and discovered three in four to be fakes.

eBay has said it believes ony around 6,000 fraudulent transactions take place at any given time. But these are not just cases of hooky goods; it also includes bad transactions such as goods not being delivered.

This seems extraordinarily conservative. Microsoft, for example, teamed up with eBay in the UK last December under its Verified Rights Owners programme (VeRO) to track down counterfeit versions of its software and found 11,000 such items last August. That’s just one company looking into the UK only version of eBay.

eBay users themselves have little power to hold the auction site accountable for the goods on offer. It says its role is to simply get buyers in contact with sellers and vice versa, not to police the goods on its site.

But trademark and copyright holders themselves do. The Tiffany suit crosses a threshold. Rather than team with eBay to identify fake products, it sees eBay as facilitating the transactions, pocketing as it does the listing and closing fees.

And if eBay even settled out of court, let alone lost, the result could mean it had to start keeping an eye on the veracity of the items listed. This would have a massive impact on the efficiency of the eBay business model and change the way Internet-based transactions are conducted.

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