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Antiques professionals will be able to plug the gaps in eBay’s expertise when it comes to spotting the fakes, say the online giant. The move comes in the wake of a series of court victories for eBay across Europe – most recently in the High Court in London – in disputes over counterfeit luxury goods (click here).

The campaign, which could serve to gold-plate eBay’s argument that they do everything in their power to fight crime on their site, will focus on the company’s Verified Rights Owner programme (VeRO).

“The new anti-counterfeit campaign, ‘Fighting Fakes with eBay’, is part of eBay’s ongoing commitment to drive down the number of fake antiques sold on the site,” said a spokesman.

EBay say there are currently 31,000 VeRO members globally and that in 2008, the company suspended approximately 30,000 sellers. All listings reported to be counterfeit were removed, with 70-80 per cent of them taken down within 12 hours, and 75 per cent of them within four hours, eBay told ATG.

Globally, 2.1m were removed in 2008 under the VeRO programme, with eBay choosing to remove a further 2.1m of potentially counterfeit items.

Doug McCallum, senior vice president of eBay Europe said: “Counterfeiters’ sophistication keeps increasing, making it ever harder to differentiate a genuine item from a fake.

“We invest millions of dollars annually to prevent potential counterfeits from appearing, and millions more removing from our sites the few that slip through. Clearly, as we do not have the expertise to assess the authenticity of every branded product, we are unable to tackle the problem alone.

“The fight against counterfeits requires a coordinated and global approach – with Governments, Rights Owners, law enforcement and industry working together to combat the issue. We hope this latest anti-counterfeit initiative will raise awareness and put the VeRO programme and the support it offers, front of mind with Rights Owners.”

The VeRO programme can be effective, but it has had its own problems.

In 2004 ATG reported how the family of the Italian glass designer Fulvio Bianconi were being investigated for possible breaches of the VeRO programme after they had the stock of Nottingham glass dealer Vanessa Paterson removed from eBay, claiming it had not been authorised by them.

They had laid claim to all rights linked to the designer, despite losing legal disputes with the Venini Factory, who owned the rights to produce and market Bianconi’s designs.

Vanessa Paterson alerted eBay to the controversy and they launched an investigation into whether the Bianconis were in breach of the VeRO programme. Those registering a rights claim, as the Bianconis were reported to have done, must sign a document that states any false claim may lay the signatory open to a charge of perjury.

The Bianconis later backtracked on their claim, but it is not clear whether eBay continued with their legal prosecution.

By Ivan Macquisten