eBay 1, Tiffany’s 0

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Tiffany was in the news this week, not for a new line of diamond rings or earrings but because it lost the long-running lawsuit it’s had with eBay about the sale of counterfeit Tiffany goods on the site. Tiffany maintains that eBay knowingly encouraged sellers to dilute Tiffany’s value and trademarks by not putting a stop to counterfeit Tiffany listings on the site. Rather than resting with eBay, the burden for identifying counterfeit goods rests with Tiffany, who have to report counterfeit listings to eBay and have eBay remove them. EBay argues that like YouTube it’s up to the trademark holder to report false listings, and they already take enough action against counterfeit items because these are bad for their marketplace.

This American ruling is interesting because it diverges from recent findings in European courts. In Germany a ruling for Rolex found that eBay must make greater preventative measures against the sale of counterfeit Rolexes, and in France eBay was ordered to pay Louis Vuitton 40 million euros in damages for the sale of counterfeit goods.

Counterfeit goods damage brand value–if discovered, they’ll upset people who purchase them and receive them as gifts; they mock the effort that people make to show their love and appreciation for one another. The takeaway from this case is that one needs to be careful when make purchases from a source that hasn’t been completely vetted. When a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

[Photo by minxlj]

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Secondhand Luxury Online

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post about the growing demand for “certified, pre-owned” luxury goods in the online space. Portero.com is a auction site that only offers luxury goods that are used but have been appraised and validated as authentic. According to the article:

Portero wants to appeal to buyers who appreciate the convenience of online shopping but who are more interested in getting their hands on a specific, genuine item than in getting a rock-bottom bargain.

The site aims to be the Sotheby’s or Christie’s online equivalent for jewelry, watches and handbags rather than an eBay-style flea market.

The items on the site come from individuals or dealers (where Portero makes an average 25% commission on sales) or from the site itself. All items pass through Portero’s offices to be validated, professionally photographed and listed, and then gift-boxed before being sent to buyers.

With eBay hosting the vast majority of online auctions, a certified used goods auction site is an interesting experiment. It’s likely the site lacks the high volume of traffic that eBay gets, but I’d bet the traffic it does get is very high quality with plenty of users serious about making purchases. That Portero handles the auction and provides a guarantee with every purchase surely eases the minds of people who aren’t experienced with online auctions.

Stephanie Phair, vice president of business development for Portero, believes that the site really fills a niche:

There is a market out there, call it an aspirational market, of people who really want that Chloe bag. With the pre-owned market . . . it’s okay to have last year’s. The breathless fashion customer is ours, but on the selling side.

I agree. Portero provides a market for connoisseurs to find the exact items they want to appreciate; they might not see the same items anywhere else, and if they do (on eBay for example) they might have difficulty verifying them. With more wealthy people going online, Portero could be quite a success.

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