We've had quite a few stories here (see "Embroidery Piracy and EBay/PayPal Privacy" for example) about abuses of the power EBay's Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) programs gives vendors to arbitrarily take down auctions. But while most of those stories have involved takedowns over alleged copyright infringement, one reader's recent experience suggests that trademark claims might be an area where the abuses are even more troubling.
"I recently listed some Don Ed Hardy T-shirts and hats on EBay," the reader wrote. "Within four hours they were all taken down, and within eight hours my EBay account was suspended. I received an e-mail from EBay saying they had been taken down because VeRO member 'Nervous Tattoo, Inc., dba Don Ed Hardy,' had claimed that my items were counterfeit."
The reason the reader was relatively certain that she was selling authentic Don Ed Hardy merchandise was that, as a military family member, she had purchased the clothing through the local PX. "What is important here is that my items are all 'Brand New With Tags.' We live in an area where the Ed Hardy brand is not that well known, so I was able to get them at a clearance price. I have the receipt, and I purchased them from a huge, very reputable company called AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Services). Most people in the military know these stores as the BX or PX. AAFES have over 12,000 stores worldwide and directly serves the United States military. This was the company that Nervous Tattoo, a big Hollywood outfit, was claiming sold me counterfeit goods."
As with all of EBay's VeRO notices, the reader was told that her only recourse if she thought the takedown was a mistake was to contact the intellectual property owner who had made the claim. So she wrote to the Nervous Tattoo "fraud" department and attempted to persuade them with the receipt, detailed pictures of the merchandise with the AAFES tags still clearly attached, and an e-mail from AAFES headquarters confirming the merchandise was authentic. But the folks at Nervous Tattoo seemed uninterested in determining whether the goods were actually counterfeit. Instead, all of her very polite queries to the Don Ed Hardy fraud staff received terse, nasty responses accusing her, AAFES, and basically anyone else selling their merchandise on EBay of being crooks.
While the reader wanted to get her auctions reinstated, her bigger concern was getting the suspension of and black marks against EBay account removed. "I have been with EBay for over eight years with thousands of all positive feedback reports -- not one neutral, not one negative," she wrote. "I have worked very hard for a long time to maintain my feedback rating. I am an honest person and I have done nothing wrong. I feel like my legs have been kicked out from underneath me."