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The eBay VeRO program introduces issues most sellers will have to deal with at some point if they sell popular brand-name merchandise. The idea behind the program is to prevent the unauthorized use of trademarked or copyrighted material, including brand names, logos, or photos posted in catalogs or company websites. If a company or intellectual property owner finds that an eBay listing violates its copyrighted materials, they can report the listing to eBay through the VeRO program. eBay may then respond by removing the listing in question, and repeated offenses could result in seller account restrictions or suspensions.
The eBay VeRO program began in 1998 as a method for intellectual property rights owners to report counterfeit products or listings that infringe on their copyrights or trademarks. Since then, over 40,000 owners of intellectual property have joined the program. eBay states that the VeRO program has been essential in keeping the marketplace a safe place to buy and sell while also protecting the rights of the brands participating in the program.
Suppose a company or intellectual property owner believes a listing violates their property rights. In that case, they can file a Notice of Claimed Infringement (NOCI) on eBay’s website and submit their request by email or fax. The form must include the signature of the person authorized to claim on behalf of the property rights owner and a detailed description of the work or item that has been copyrighted. The claim must also explain how the seller infringes on their copyrights or trademarks and the item number/URL of the listing in question. If eBay finds the request of the intellectual property rights owner to be valid, they may remove the listing in question and place restrictions on or suspend the seller’s account.
When a seller lists a popular name-brand product like a Nike sneaker or a piece of clothing from Nordstrom, it may be tempting to use artwork or other materials directly from their company websites. Unfortunately, most companies included in the eBay VeRO program prohibit the unauthorized use of these materials without their express permission. Of course, you never want to attempt to sell any merchandise you believe could be counterfeit or a replica.
Some restrictions on selling merchandise are more severe than others. Nike, for instance, allows their products to be resold on eBay only if the seller purchased them and are now selling them in their original status. Also, you are only authorized to use Nike trademarks for reselling purposes in the country you bought the merchandise.
VeRO violations are challenging to avoid when reselling software. Microsoft prohibits the reselling and distributing of most of its popular programs, including Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.
The most common eBay VeRO program violations are as follows:
A trademark can be a logo, name, or word/phrase uniquely attributed to a company's products or services. eBay sellers cannot use these properties without the permission of the owner.
Copyrights are legal protections that individuals or companies can obtain to prevent others from copying or distributing materials. A company may copyright images, product descriptions, software, and other media to prevent illegal duplication.
Some sellers on eBay may make the mistake of using a recognized brand name in their listing titles or descriptions when the company in question does not make the item.
Sellers must be careful not to include company logos in their listings or an image that bears a strong resemblance to an existing logo.
It may seem sensible to include a detailed description of the manufacturer’s warranty for a particular product, but sellers must not assume these guarantees apply to resold products. It is recommended that sellers contact the manufacturer first to ensure that the warranty will still apply to potential buyers.
This violation occurs when a seller attempts to sell a product using a brand name when that brand did not manufacture the item in question. Fashion and jewelry brands, including Gucci and Rolex, commonly see their items counterfeited, but major electronics brands like Apple also see their fair share of products illegally duplicated.
Specific to these regions, the VeRO program protects the design rights of products. This infringement applies to the physical appearance of a product but is not related to how the item in question functions.
When a person invents a new product, they have the right to file for a patent to stop others from duplicating that product or using it for financial gain.
In some cases, copyright laws may only apply to specific countries. As a result, sellers should research the protections for the manufacturers of goods shipped across borders when selling internationally.
eBay maintains a regularly updated eBay Vero list, click here to view the list.
Each company has a page with specific information about what materials or information sellers are unauthorized to include in their listings. Most brands share some common restrictions in posting copyrighted photos, but in some cases, companies like Nike have more unique rules for reselling their products.
While eBay sellers should be careful when reselling any name-brand merchandise, some listings are taken down more often because of their association with a top group of brands. The top 10 companies on eBay’s list that are more proactive in their VeRO claims are:
Many companies use automated scanning tools to search current eBay listings for possible infringements on their copyrights or trademarks. eBay is notified through the VeRO program, and the listing in question may be removed. In most cases, once a buyer is advised of this VeRO claim, it will be difficult to convince the company in question that the listing upholds the conditions described in their VeRO policy page. However, occasionally buyers have reported misuse of the VeRO program, and eBay may, in some cases, remove restrictions on seller accounts and even refund lost listing or selling fees.
eBay mentions several conditions on its eBay VeRO program page in which companies should not make claims against sellers. eBay VeRO program participants cannot file claims to control where and who sells their products. Also, companies cannot abuse the VeRO program by attempting to manipulate the price point of an item. Finally, due to regulatory compliance issues, eBay VeRO program participants are prohibited from making claims on government-controlled items that are illegal to sell.
If you feel that your listing was taken down unfairly, it is vital that you contact the company making a claim first before appealing to eBay. Contact information for every VeRO participant is provided when eBay notifies of any violations. If a seller does not receive a response from the company in a reasonable period, then eBay is more likely to consider requests made directly to them.
The VeRO program can seem intimidating to sellers because hundreds of major companies on the eBay VeRO directory monitor listings for various violations.
If you are listing a popular product, chances are it already exists in eBay’s expansive product catalog, and you can find a match using your chosen listing software. The listing will then be generated with a stock photo and product information that is safe to include.
eBay’s listing software may warn sellers of common VeRO violations before submitting their listings. Other third-party software has similar safeguards built into their listing platforms. Ultimately, the easiest way to avoid eBay VeRO program violations is to prevent selling popular name-brand merchandise.
Another problem for sellers is that eBay has traditionally been slow to update VeRO company policies listed on their website. Fortunately, there are free tools like PriceYak that will scan your existing listings for any violations that may have slipped past sellers during the listing process.
Sellers who have violated VeRO policies will receive a warning about future offenses in addition to having the listing in question removed from eBay.
If eBay removes a listing, the seller will have the option to relist if they can advertise the product in a way that does not infringe on trademarks or copyrights.
Sellers should attempt to contact the VeRO program participant first with the contact info provided in eBay’s notice. If the company does not respond to the request, eBay can be contacted if a seller believes their listing did not violate the VeRO guidelines.
Repeated offenses may result in an account suspension. Also, in the most egregious cases, companies have the right to pursue legal or civil action if an individual causes a substantial financial loss or damage to their brand’s reputation.
Sellers should carefully read any suspension notices from eBay, as they may offer resolutions, including revising listings that will automatically reinstate an account.
While the goal of the eBay program is to keep the platform a safe and legitimate marketplace for buyers, it also introduces confusion for sellers seeking to list popular merchandise. However, by becoming familiar with the basic VeRO guidelines and implementing selling practices to avoid account restrictions, you can continue to list on eBay without fear of listings being removed.