In the 2004 counterfeit goods lawsuit brought against online auction giant eBay (EBAY) by Tiffany & Co. (TIF), a New York appeals court has ruled in favor of eBay. The suit stemmed from an independent investigation conducted by Tiffany, where an investigatory sampling determined that more than 70% of supposed Tiffany items on eBay were found to be fakes. Tiffany maintains that eBay bears responsibility for cleaning out those counterfeit items.
Yes, eBay bears some responsibility in this matter, but that responsibility begins and ends at the removal of offending listings when they are reported or discovered. Any random examination of listings by eBay for potential rule violations or illegal activities falls under the heading of good faith, not due diligence.
eBay's counterfeit items policy is simple. It states in part, "For a safer buying and selling experience on eBay, we don't allow listings for counterfeit items, fakes, replicas, or unauthorized copies." The site provides several ways for its clients to report suspect item listings. In my own experience, eBay's efforts to purge offending item listings have at times even seemed a bit overzealous. If Tiffany wants someone to examine eBay listing for counterfeits, it may certainly feel free to do so.
Perhaps Tiffany needs to rethink its position on this matter. Perhaps rather than alienating itself from a broad marketing opportunity, it should focus its efforts on branding itself into eBay. Perhaps Tiffany could create an authorized dealer network wherein Tiffany sellers would be preapproved to sell its brand on eBay, which would then allow eBay to automatically disallow unauthorized listing of Tiffany items.
Or Tiffany could just go back to whining with its head stuck in the sand. The choice is theirs.