In Part IV of our eBay VeRO program article series, we discussed ways for you to avoid suffering a VeRO violation by following copyright rules and using authenticating techniques in your listings. In Part V we continue this discussion with a closer look at how rights owners discover alleged offenders, and a discussion of the pratice eBay labels as “encouraging”.
Many manufacturers have delegated the responsibility for monitoring eBay listings to a monitoring agent who works on their behalf. It seems that a cottage industry has developed around the need for this monitoring service. There are now companies that specialise in offering reporting services or software-based solutions for rights owners. They have developed tools and processes to help identify infringing materials on eBay based on information provided by rights owners.
Third-party reporting agents generally have a good understanding of the VeRO Program. Rights owners use these services to report infringing listings through the VeRO program. Some of these companies also offer additional services, such as investigations and interaction with law enforcement. eBay even supplies a list of monitoring agents that are available to work with rights owners, though they are careful to say that they do not endorse any specific company or group of companies. You'll find the list in the VeRO program section on eBay. http://pages.ebay.com/vero/monitoring-agents.html
One of the primary tools used by monitoring agents is the keyword search. A monitoring agent for Apple, for example, would search for all listings that include the keyword “iPhone”. This means that, unless you are a bona fide reseller of iPhone products, or you have obtained genuine iPhone products, you are going to have a problem if you use the word “iPhone” in your listing. If you sell a mobile phone that is not an iPhone but looks and operates very much like an iPhone, you are not allowed to describe that alternative brand by using the term iPhone, or Apple, or any other copyrighted or trademarked term. For example, you cannot say “the XYZ cell phone has as almost as many apps available as the iPhone”, even if it's absolutely true. Why not? Apple does not want you to use its keywords to draw potential buyers to your product as a substitute for their product. Since they own the rights to the brand name iPhone, it's illegal to use it in your listing.
There are other general keywords that raise alarms as well. For example, if you use the word “gold” in a listing of a low-priced item, or if you list a gold item in another category, you may raise a red flag.
Monitoring agents search for images as well as keywords, so your image labels also need to be written without reference to any brand name that you are not actually selling.
This is an unusual category of problem that has cost some sellers their businesses. You are likely to be shut down if you sell not the product but the packaging for the product. For example, Rolex cases and accessories are often collector's items that can sell for hundreds of dollars. Many people like to buy these as they pass their Rolex on to another, or just to provide the right setting for their watch (if they don't happen to have their own original case). This means that there is a collectibles trade in Rolex watch cases and accessories. However, eBay believes that if you sell genuine Rolex cases without the watches themselves, you are encouraging counterfeit sellers to package fake Rolexes in genuine cases and advance their ability to dupe unsuspecting customers. They're probably right that there's a certain amount of that practice along with the legitimate trade in the boxes as collectible items. Unfortunately, since there's not an easy way to understand why a box is being purchased, eBay forbids the selling of packaging items, blank certificates and any other props that can help a scammer validate a fake product's value.
Now that you've learned some of the “tricks of the trade” to stay on the right side of VeRO, continue on to Part VI of our series to learn about parallel imports then to Part VII of our article series to learn what to do if you do get hit with a VeRO de-listing.