Tiffany v. eBay

NYT: A year ago Jacqui Rogers, a retiree in southern Oregon who dabbles in vintage costume jewelry, went on eBay and bought 10 butterfly brooches made by Weiss, a well-known maker of high-quality costume jewelry in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
At first, Ms. Rogers thought she had snagged a great deal. But when the jewelry arrived from a seller in Rhode Island, her well-trained eye told her that all of the pieces were knockoffs.
Even though Ms. Rogers received a refund after she confronted the seller, eBay refused to remove hundreds of listings for identical “Weiss” pieces. It said it had no responsibility for the fakes because it was nothing more than a marketplace that links buyers and sellers.
ebay_v_tiffany.jpg
That very stance — the heart of eBay’s business model — is now being challenged by eBay users like Ms. Rogers who notify other unsuspecting buyers of fakes on the site. And it is being tested by a jewelry seller with far greater resources than Ms. Rogers: Tiffany & Company, which has sued eBay for facilitating the trade of counterfeit Tiffany items on the site.
If Tiffany wins its case, not only would other lawsuits follow, but eBay’s very business model would be threatened because it would be nearly impossible for the company to police a site that now has 180 million members and 60 million items for sale at any one time.
The Tiffany lawsuit, in addition to accusing eBay of facilitating counterfeiting, also contends that it “charges hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees” for counterfeit sales.
In 2004, Tiffany secretly purchased about 200 items from eBay in its investigation of how the company was dealing with the thousands of pieces of counterfeit Tiffany jewelry. The jeweler found that three out of four pieces were fakes.
The case will go to trial by the end of this year, said James B. Swire, an attorney with Arnold & Porter, a law firm representing Tiffany. The legal question — whether eBay is a facilitator of fraud — is a critical issue that could affect not only eBay’s future but Internet commerce generally, said Thomas Hemnes, a lawyer in Boston who specializes in intellectual property.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditStumbleUponEmailDiggShare
About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Doer of the things written about herein.