To protect the rights of owners of intellectual property, eBay has created a program called the “Verified Rights Owner” program (VeRO). If you sell products on eBay and you are a brand owner with an active registered trademark issued by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), you may be eligible to enroll. By enrolling in eBay’s VeRO program, brand owners will have access to a suite of tools to prevent infringement and counterfeits of their products being sold.
Trademark infringement and product counterfeiting on online retail platforms like eBay has significantly increased over the last decade and has become a big problem for many online sellers and brand owners. For example, merchandise will be offered and sold on the eBay platform that is alleged to be from a certain brand or manufacturer, but it is not. It is unlawful to infringe upon the intellectual property of others. Owners of trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property are constantly monitoring eBay product listings to identify and penalize these bad actors. The eBay VeRO program provides brand owner’s with certain tools they can leverage to remove fraudulent listings from the eBay platform.
eBay VeRO Program Features & Benefits
As part of the VeRO program, eBay has established a comprehensive set of rules for their sellers with respect to intellectual property rights. For example, eBay expressly prohibits sellers from infringing copyrights and trademarks and eBay will terminate seller listings and seller accounts for multiple violations of the rules. Only intellectual property rights owners (or brand owners with an active registered federal trademark) can report eBay listings that infringe on their copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property rights.
Membership in the eBay VeRO program is straightforward. Intellectual property owners who believe that a product listing violates their trademarks or copyrights may complete an electronic Notice of Claimed Infringement (NOCI). To complete the NOCI, a brand owner provides basic information about their registered trademarks and other information with respect to the infringing or counterfeit eBay listing. Brand owners must also certify under penalty of perjury that they are, in fact, the owner of the trademark registrations and that they have good faith belief that the listing is infringing on their intellectual property. Examples of violations that can be reported include:
Product listings or other items that bear a brand owner’s standard character word mark, design mark, or word plus design mark registered with the USPTO but were not authorized by the brand owner;
Unauthorized copies of audio, video, or other media;
Unauthorized use of a brand owner’s images or text in a product listing;
Counterfeit or replica items;
The eBay VeRO program is more than just a tool to report suspected cases of counterfeiting and intellectual property infringement. Members may also create a profile page which allows the brand owner to share information about its products and federal trademark registrations with the eBay retail community. For example, members of the eBay VeRO program may provide:
A list of all the brand owner’s active registered trademarks issued by the USPTO;
The potential consequences of infringing on the brand owner’s trademark registrations;
The conditions under which products bearing a brand owner’s registered trademarks may be sold – i.e., must be an authorized reseller;
How to contact the brand owner with questions or concerns and other frequently asked questions;
Not only will creating an eBay profile page bolster brand owners standing if counterfeiting or infringement occurs, but it can also help you avoid instances of intellectual property violations altogether. Once potential infringers know that you take your trademark rights seriously, they are generally less inclined to engage in illegal trademark violations.
Additional Legal Action Beyond The eBay VeRO Program
While the VeRO program is a great tool to receive immediate action on intellectual property rights violations, the VeRO program does not always completely resolve the issue. If a brand owner is successful at removing an infringing or counterfeit product listing, this does not mean the bad actor won’t relist the brand owner’s product on another online retail platform, like Amazon, Walmart and Etsy. This is why our trademark attorneys always recommend that brand owners contact us to send a cease and desist letter to the alleged infringer.
Why has eBay established the VeRO program?
eBay claims the purpose of the VeRO program is to create a “safe space” for consumers to buy and sell merchandise and to protect owners of intellectual property. While these reasons are likely true, eBay is also required to create something like the VeRO program to avoid being liable for contributory infringement. eBay can be likened to an enormous online flea market. In the past, courts have held that certain sales platforms — like a flea market — have certain responsibilities when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights. If a sales platform is aware of infringing behaviors and does not do something to stop the infringing behavior, then the sales platform can be held liable for the infringement. By allowing the infringement, the sales platform has contributed to the infringement and, thus, is liable for contributory infringement. The punishments for contributory infringement are generally the same as for the original infringer.
The courts consider a number of factors when evaluating whether a sales platform is contributorily liable for infringement. Among the factors are whether the platform has a mechanism for notice by owners and whether the platform takes actions to stop infringing behavior. The eBay VeRO program is aimed at both factors — it provides a mechanism for notice and allows eBay to remove listings and sellers that are engaged in infringing behavior.
Registering Trademarks for eBay VeRO Program
Please note that the above summary is our understanding of the eBay VeRO brand registry program and you should visit the eBay platform for further details and program changes. If you would like to become a member of the eBay VeRO program, our US trademark attorney can assist with registering your brands trademarks with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).
Why Use A United States Trademark Attorney?
On the surface, federal trademark searches, registrations, enforcement, and maintenance requirements may seem fairly straightforward, but more often than not it is complex, time consuming, and riddled with areas to potentially make significant, costly mistakes. We can help. Our attorneys provide crucial legal advice at every stage of the trademark process, we enforce and maintain your trademark rights, and we represent you at the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).
If you are a business owner seeking to register a federal trademark, or you are an online retail seller launching a store on Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Etsy or other online retail platform, our trademark attorneys can help. Please give us a call or contact us online by clicking the contact button and completing the form. Our trademark attorneys will respond to all inquiries within 1 business day.