Monday, April 12, 2010
New York based jeweler Tiffany & Co. have been hard hit by a ruling from last week, in a case against Ebay for trademark infringement. A district appellate court ruled that Ebay “did not engage in trademark infringement, false advertising or trademark dilution.” Apparently, Tiffany conducted research that indicated around 70% of Tiffany’s merchandise on Ebay was fake. This led to the current legal dispute, and Tiffany & Co. wants Ebay to assume responsibility for selling counterfeit merchandise.
But Ebay says they’re doing all they reasonably can to deter the sale of counterfeit goods. Selling counterfeit merchandise on Ebay is officially against the rules, but enforcing the rules is mainly up to Ebay buyers who can report suspected counterfeits. And, according to last week’s decision, it’s the individual sellers who are guilty of trademark infringement, not Ebay itself. For the last few years, rulings have been back and forth on the issue. For example, France ruled against Ebay in a similar suit last year.
Tiffany & Co chairman and chief executive officer Michael Kowalski commented:
“As an e-commerce leader, eBay has a responsibility to protect consumers and promote trust in its marketplace. eBay knew that counterfeit merchandise was being sold on its site – and eBay took no effective steps to stop it. eBay deliberately misled consumers for profit, and unfortunately, the court has justified its actions. The consumer is the real loser today."
However, Lake Forest, California-based National Trademark Investigations (NTI), offers a practical solution for consumers affected by trademark infringement. NTI recently launched the Web site “isitfake.org” as a collaborative tool for buyers to combat counterfeits. Visitors to the site can report suspected counterfeit goods anonymously on the “fake finder” and view a gallery of reported fakes.
According to Mike Santoni, president of NTI,
“Isitfake.org has been created to help combat the problem of counterfeiting in three ways. First, consumers can reach out for help determining whether an item they have purchased is legitimate branded merchandise, or a knock-off. Secondly, each time isitfake.org is able to conclusively identify and report on a counterfeit, it adds to the searchable gallery on the site as a resource for the public. And finally, it provides brand owners with a new source of information about knock-offs that they can use in their anti-counterfeiting efforts.”