Thursday, November 15, 2007

Watch this space...

This week, Tiffany & Co. is suing eBay, Inc. in a New York court. (see article here) This case will likely set a precedent whatever the outcome. Tiffany maintains that eBay should be responsible for policing its site for counterfeit goods. eBay maintains that it does everything that it is obligated to do to prevent counterfeits being posted, and provides brand owners with a mechanism (VeRO) to take down suspect postings.

In our opinion, this case highlights the problems facing brand owners - that there is currently no way for anyone (Tiffany, eBay, or the end consumer) to quickly and confidently determine the authenticity of a product. No matter who wins in this case, the problem of detecting counterfeits will remain. If eBay were to lose, then it is hard to see how they could possibly check the authenticity of the millions of items posted every day on its site. The best example of how this can be achieved is on eBay Motors - where every vehicle is checked against a third party VIN database - thereby determining its authenticity, and whether it is a lemon. Unfortunately, there aren't currently equivalents to the VIN database for any other products. But, perhaps this could be a lesson for how to protect products in future?