Two recent developments in the fight against fakes encourage a little self-reflection

April 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

A campaign observed from a distance is known only by its most dramatic events.

And while ups and downs certainly help shape the path of many a movement, for those on the ground the experience is much more balanced. Campaigns require patience. They are won with gradual groundswells, not a collection of crises.

That said, over the past few weeks the fight against fakes had a few of its own peaks and valleys.

The recent ruling by the U.S. Second Court of Appeals that cleared eBay of charges filed against it for copyright violation could seem like a setback for hardened anti-counterfeiters.

In response to a 2004 suit filed by Tiffany’s claiming that thousands of fake pieces of jewelry bearing its logo were peddled on the site and made eBay liable for trademark infringement, the court upheld an earlier ruling and cleared the online retailer of the charges.

The presiding judge found that eBay’s policy of booting auctions for impostor goods – after a request is made, mind you – is a sufficient effort to fight fakes.

Further, as the lawsuit claimed that the advertisements and the hyperlinks that drive traffic to eBay could represent false advertising if the goods are fake, the ruling stated that a retailer doesn’t need to stop advertising altogether just because some of the products sold on its site may be frauds.

The court noted that it would very much violate the law if an ad claimed that all the products were authentic.

And so, the court suggested that future disclaimers would have to warn consumers that some of the products sold on a site might be frauds.

Though it might seem otherwise, we see our authentic pieces of glassware as half-full. At its core, the verdict actually encourages anticounterfeiting efforts.

Remember the ruling would have been far different if eBay hadn’t had policies in place to prevent the sale of bogus goods.

The lawsuit grabbed the retailing community by its lapels and gave it a good shake. It has helped to shape future sales practice by mandating, in so many words, the presence of a disclaimer.

Better still would be for eBay to develop a series of professional tutorials on how to spot fakes. We’d be eager to assist in the production.

The fight against fakes did get a boost this past week as several storefronts in Manhattan’s Chinatown that were raided for selling fake items back in February 2008 were fined $800,000. If they want to reopen, they’ll have to pay the fine.

The group was warned that any future rentals would have to be to legitimate businesses if they want to continue to do business.

The original raid closed 32 stores. If the property owners continue to host illegal vendors and fail to rent to legit businesses, they will face hefty fines or be shut down.

If we take a quick glance in the recent rear view, we’d see a dramatic S-curve, one up, one down. But the line drawn by the steadier, winning hand is cut through the middle of the course. While we must learn from these grand events, our movement requires balance.

There will be upswings and downswings, gentle down-sloping ramps and speed bumps, chutes and ladders. But it’s important to remember that our fight will be won by gradual groundswells, not the rogue waves that currently dominate the media.

Each conversation that you begin about the real cost of the fake trade is its own groundswell. Start enough discussions and the counterfeiters will be caught standing in front of a tsunami holding a fake chamois.

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