Lawsuit at Tiffany's as jeweller sues eBay over fake sales

LONDON - Tiffany, the famed Fifth Avenue jeweller that lent its name to a Truman Capote novella, is suing online auction firm eBay after finding that 73% of items sold under its brand on the site were fake.

The jeweller is claiming that eBay has violated its trademark by selling counterfeit goods on its site, with fears that sub-standard products sold could damage the Tiffany brand.

According to reports, eBay has been asked to stop listing Tiffany goods that are not the genuine article, and the suit asks the company to account for profits it has made on the sale of fake Tiffany items. The alternative is to pay up to $1m for each counterfeit product sold.

EBay, which has not yet seen the complaint, has said that it has a programme in place to prevent counterfeit goods being sold on its site, known as VeRO. Its Verified Rights Owner Program allows fake items to be reported and listings to be removed to protect intellectual property rights.

According to a statement on eBay: "EBay is committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of third parties and to providing its users with a safe place to trade. EBay created the Verified Rights Owner Program so intellectual property owners could easily report listings that infringe their rights."

Along with jewellery, Tiffany sells timepieces, sterling silverware, china, crystal, stationery, fragrances and accessories. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. There are reports that the company has had two staff working full time to police Tiffany auctions on eBay, leading to the closure of 19,000 auctions on the site.

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