March 8, 2006, 12:00 AM

Counterfeit goods sold via eBay seized in raids in the U.K., Tiffany says

Bogus Tiffany merchandise sold on eBay led to raids by law enforcement in the United Kingdom that resulted in the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit items, Tiffany & Co. announced today.

 

Bogus Tiffany merchandise sold on eBay led to raids by law enforcement in the United Kingdom that resulted in the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit items, Tiffany & Co. announced today.

The raids were conducted last month after an investigation by Tiffany’s regional security manager in the U.K. connected the bogus items to eBay auction sites and then alerted authorities. The seized merchandise included counterfeit Tiffany silver rings, necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry as well as phony Tiffany packaging materials, Tiffany said.

Counterfeiting is on the rise, “aggravated by Internet auction sites like eBay that enable criminals to operate counterfeit distribution rings anonymously,” said Dave McGowan, vice president of worldwide security for Tiffany.

Tiffany did not contact eBay about the allegedly counterfeit items sold on its site, although the retailer in the past had participated in eBay’s Verified Rights Owner program, an eBay spokesman says. Under that program, brand owners can file with eBay a copyright infringement notice to have counterfeit items removed from the auction site and the sellers of those items suspended.

“What this shows is that Tiffany is perfectly capable of engaging in brand protection efforts,” he says. “We continue to be ready and willing to cooperate with them in this investigation and others like it.”

Tiffany sued eBay in June 2004 for direct and contributory counterfeiting and infringement after a study showed that 73% of Tiffany jewelry sold on the auction site was counterfeit. The retailer said it has blocked tens of thousands of eBay auctions of phony merchandise and requested suspension of hundreds of high-volume power sellers. Tiffany also sought eBay’s cooperation in establishing safeguards against systematic fraud. However, those safeguards were never put in place, Tiffany said.

The eBay spokesman says the online auction site thinks Tiffany’s suit is without merit. “It’s possible that Tiffany’s major motive is to protect their current distribution channels as opposed to protecting the brand,” he says. “If some of their suggestions have included just not allowing the sale of Tiffany items on the site, we’re not going to take that step. People who own something that is made by Tiffany have every right to sell it if they own it.”

 

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