French firms target eBay in anti-counterfeit drive
By Nick Antonovics
A French industry group plans to file a complaint with prosecutors
seeking damages from eBay Inc. and other Internet auction sites for
the sale of counterfeit products on their Web pages, the group's
Marc Antoine Jamet, chairman of France's Union of Manufacturers
(Unifab), told Reuters that the complaint, due to be filed next month,
also aims at forcing the sites to clamp down on product pirates.
"There is a continent which makes the fakes, which is China, and there
is a continent where they are sold, and that is the Internet," he
Other auction sites in the firing line include those run by privately
held iOffer.com, Yahoo Inc. and Japan's Rakuten, Inc.
But the main focus is eBay, with which Unifab has held more than a
dozen meetings in the last two years, Jamet said.
"We think eBay is perfectly capable of policing its site, but they
offer to take action only after the fact. They refuse to act
pre-emptively," he said.
"We think they have the IT to manage their sites, to track bank
accounts and ownership."
EBay spokesman Hani Duzry said the company operates an anti-counterfeit
goods program and constantly monitors auctions for blatantly
infringing products and removes them.
FOCUS ON EBAY
"We don't allow counterfeit items on the site. It is against eBay
policy. It is illegal. We are committed to working with copyright
owners on this," Duzry said.
Ebay "makes it easy," he said, for any copyright owner to contact eBay
to report infringing products in order to have eBay remove them.
Jamet said, however, that the firm had refused Unifab's request to
pro-actively shut down merchants of counterfeit goods in the same way
it agreed in 2001 to ban listings of Nazi memorabilia and from groups
such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Unifab's complaint will contain concrete examples of counterfeit goods
found for sale on the Internet, he said.
Leather goods maker Louis Vuitton, a unit of LVMH, the world's largest
luxury goods group, last year found 235,000 examples of counterfeit
articles on 340 eBay pages.
In one case, it tracked more than 100 copies of the same article being
sold within one hour, said Jamet, who is also a senior executive at
Other luxury goods companies are also targets of counterfeiters, while
Unifab members in sectors from pharmaceuticals to spare car parts
support the action, he said.
Unifab had decided to move now, he added, because the problem of
counterfeit sales had exploded.
Three years ago, none of the French firms affected -- including
big-name luxury goods makers such as LVMH, Hermes International and
Chanel -- monitored Internet traffic.
Now, many have teams who have spent months gathering evidence and
assembling a case.
"It's a huge phenomenon, which has multiplied by 25 times in the last
five years," he said.
SEEKING FINES, DAMAGES
Jamet said Unifab would be asking prosecutors to seek damages and
interest from the auction sites in relation to the alleged losses
suffered by the firms. In the case of some luxury goods companies,
these ran into millions of euros, he said.
Unifab also wants to prosecute the sites for providing the means to
resell counterfeit goods, a charge the French luxury goods industry
has successfully brought against shop owners in Beijing's silk market
and on New York's Canal Street.
In addition, it is asking the French government to revise its laws on
electronic commerce to make online auctioneers "co-responsible" for
the goods that are sold on their sites, Jamet said.
Unifab believes its case has been strengthened by a Paris court's
decision in June to fine online search engine Google 300,000 euros
($385,000) over advertisements for counterfeit goods generated by its
sites. Google had based its defense partly on the existing French
France is home to much of the world's luxury goods industry and the
French government has taken steps in the past three years to toughen
its laws against counterfeiting.
The government tried last month to broker a friendly solution to the
row between Unifab and the auctioneers, but it was rejected by the
industry group which believed it did not go far enough.
Unifab estimates counterfeiting represents 5 to 9 percent of global
trade, or 200 billion to 300 billion euros a year in lost earnings for
manufacturers. Losses in France alone exceed 6 billion euros, it says.
(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco)
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: As the writer points out, E-Bay is one
of the worst offenders. And they do _NOT_ make it easy to report any
problems at their site. If I get one, I get a couple dozen daily
'complaints' from so-called users of E-Bay which allegedly are lodged
against me daily. I have done business with E-Bay exactly one time in
my life; when I sought out and purchased the Nokia GAIT phone several
months ago. Yet, there are dozens of complaints daily saying that I
either 'failed to ship' or 'failed to pay for what I purchased' from
users there. Now, one of the more common, I guess, tactics by phishers
and scammers is to send letters of this sort out, so I could excuse
E-Bay for its role in it, except that (taking E-Bay's web site advice)
to send the offensive email to 'firstname.lastname@example.org' does no good at all;
in fact, I doubt that is even a working address. I sat here two
afternoons ago, using emacs and Note Pad to gather up a huge number of
those farces which get sent out to whoever on the net is still enough
of an idiot to pay attention to them, and shipped off the whole bunch
to 'email@example.com' . About 10 minutes later it all bounced back at
me saying 'spoof' is only used for certain things at E-Bay and my mail
would not get delivered or read. Now, their sister company, PayPal
uses 'firstname.lastname@example.org' as an address to forward all that crapola to;
but appartently E-Bay does not. I wish a good, reliable honest auction
site could be started on the net. PAT]