Regulate eBay to curb rip-offs say brand owners

According to brands research from intellectual property management specialist Marks & Clerk, 73 per cent of respondents feel that while digital media brings opportunities for brand promotion, intellectual property abuses, and threats to brand integrity are on the rise – and proving harder to protect against.

In particular, 73 per cent claim that brands are more likely to be ‘subject to unfair treatment online than offline’, with 64 per cent revealing that the Internet has made it ‘harder for them to police’, and protect the reputation of their brands; 81 per cent claim that the Internet fosters a culture ‘in which companies and individuals are more prone to exploit each others' intellectual property’, whether consciously or otherwise. Another 81 per cent of respondents believe that intellectual property law has failed to keep up with the challenges posed by the rise of the Internet.

A primary concern to emerge from the survey centres upon the boost that e-commerce has given to counterfeiters. An overwhelming 95 per cent of respondents believe that the Internet has ‘transformed’ the nature of the threat posed by counterfeiting, with 88 per cent arguing that the rise of e-commerce ‘necessitates stronger intellectual property protection’ as a result.

Respondents reserved particular ire for eBay: 86 per cent claim that eBay should be at least partly liable for the distribution of counterfeit goods on its site, while 59 per cent call eBay’s efforts to combat counterfeiters using its site are ‘insufficient’. Sixty-four per cent of res[ondents describe it as ‘unreasonable’ to expect brand owners to police individual items on the site themselves, while 91 per cent believe that ‘stricter conditions and penalties ought to be directly imposed on secondary markets’ – such as eBay – to combat counterfeiting.

And respondents are almost unanimous – 98 per cent – in their desire to see more consistent and stiffer penalties levied directly on infringers, while 96 per cent would like legislation enacted to spell out the distinct responsibilities of brand owners and online commercial players.

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