June 22, 2004
Tiffany Sues eBay Over Counterfeits
Tiffany & Co. filed a lawsuit claiming online auctioneer eBay Inc. has aided violations of the Tiffany trademark by letting counterfeit items be sold on its Web site, according to Reuters. A study of certain pieces of "Tiffany" jewelry sold on eBay this year showed 73% of the jewelry was counterfeit, said Mark Aaron, a Tiffany spokesman, in a statement about the lawsuit filed June 18 in U.S. District Court in New York City.
"Since they [eBay] are making the money from it, the public is being defrauded by it and Tiffany is being damaged by it, the question is who should bear the burden of policing it," said James Swire, the lawyer representing Tiffany. An eBay spokesman says it has a program in place called VeRO, or verified rights owners, to help companies prevent fake goods from being sold on eBay.
"We take these concerns very seriously, which is why we have worked closely with Tiffany and thousands of other rights owners for many years through our VeRO program to help them address these types of issues," said Hani Durzy, eBay spokesman. He added he could not comment specifically on the lawsuit because eBay has not seen the complaint.
The lawsuit asks that eBay be stopped from listing any "Tiffany" merchandise that is not genuine and for eBay to account for profits it made on the sale of counterfeit Tiffany merchandise or else pay up to $1 million for each type of fake Tiffany merchandise sold on the Web site. "We have been in correspondence with eBay for some period of time," Swire said. "A year ago, they declined to themselves police their auction sites for counterfeit Tiffany merchandise and said we should use the programs they have to police the site."
Using eBay programs like VeRO, Tiffany had two employees work full-time policing the site and forced the shutdown of about 19,000 auction sites on eBay, he said. This year, Tiffany randomly bought silver "Tiffany" jewelry on eBay and found 73% of it was counterfeit, 5% genuine and the rest promoted as "Tiffany-like" but not promoted as genuine. Sales of shoddy counterfeit merchandise with the Tiffany name harms Tiffany's reputation, the company said.