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Software takes aim at auction fakes

The update to the GenuNet suite of programs promises to help companies crack down on knockoffs put up for sale in online auctions.

Software maker GenuOne has released a set of programs designed to help manufacturers crack down on knockoffs for sale in online auctions.

GenuNet 3.0, a new version of the Boston-based company's "brand security" software, can help identify counterfeit and "gray-market" versions of merchandise, GenuOne said Monday. The programs monitors auction sites such as eBay and those on Yahoo for items it suspects are fake. It also detects so-called gray-market sales, or the sale of unused merchandise through unauthorized channels, said Suneer Maheswary, a GenuNet product manager.

The software is aimed at companies that want to protect their brand. In addition to buying the software, customers must pay a monthly subscription to GenuOne.

The Web-based system is tied to eBay's auction listings database through an interface-licensing agreement with the Web auctioneer, allowing GenuNet to more efficiently comb through thousands of items, Maheswary said. E-mail alerts notify GenuNet subscribers of suspicious listings and prompt them to file a complaint to eBay through Vero, the auction site's Verified Rights Owner program.

Vero is eBay's system for deterring copyright infringement on its site. When the site gets a complaint, it cancels the auction and notifies the seller of the objection. It is up to the seller to prove that the sale is legitimate for it to be relisted.

GenuOne's system can detect the telltale signs of brand infringement for each subscriber, factoring in minimum reserve prices, the quantity of items up for bid, information about the seller, and the use of trademarks and warrantees, Maheswary said.

The Internet has made the counterfeiter's job much easier because it affords offenders a certain level of anonymity, Maheswary said. In addition, it's generally harder to discern if an item is counterfeit online than to do so in person.

eBay, already the target of a lawsuit related to the sale of knockoffs, has been eager to cooperate with GenuOne, Maheswary said. Rolex filed a suit against eBay's German subsidiary two years ago, alleging that the site's customers sold fake Rolex watches. The suit, which eBay later won, sought an order to ban sales of Rolex watches on the site as well as financial damages.

An eBay spokesman confirmed the company's licensing agreement with GenuOne.

GenuNet 3.0 will be available by June, with prices starting at $400 per month.