For those that have not been following Greg Parker's dispute with Trialtir or are not fully aware of what all is happening, I would like to give a summary of what I have seen or know of the events. Please do excuse the length of the post. I tried to be as sythetic as possible without losing any important points.
Colnago, in the person of Alessandro Colnago, has recently awoken with the belief that they need to rid ebay of any auction containing the word Colnago where the item up for sale is not specifically a 'Colnago' product. While I believe that this concept is in itself fair and justified, I also believe that the way that Colnago are going about achieving the wanted result is highly incorrect. Effectively, what is happening is that Alessandro Colnago has instructed Trialtir, their American distributor, to rid ebay of all mention of the Colnago name that they define to not be for a 'Colnago' item. Herein lies the problem. Colnago is narrowly defining a Colnago product as solely those products that are marked with the Colnago name or trademarks.
This leads to Trialtir having Ebay cancel auctions simply because of the mention of the word Colnago in the description or title text. This occurs both for those descriptions where the use of the word Colnago is patently an example of keyword spamming, as well as those descriptions of items where the use of the word Colnago is a key element in defining the product for sale. Keyword spamming, which is effectively adding a totally unrelated word to a title or description solely to attract ebayers to an auction, is clearly not permitted according to ebay rules. On the other hand, an accusation of keyword spamming related to the mention that a given part was removed from a Colnago bike or was used as original equipment on a Colnago seems to me rather extreme. Even more so, when the vendors' right to sell their own property is blocked or interfered with. It therefore becomes a restraint of trade issue.
A second issue is that Trialtir, to achieve their goal, is employing an ebay rule that is not even theirs to use. In fact, the VeRo rule that they are using requires that they pledge to Ebay that they are the owners of the legal rights to the intellectual property being protected. Trialtir obviously does not own the Colnago name and are therefore apparently not entitled to invoke protection. Only Colnago themselves should normally be permitted to invoke protection as per the ebay rule. This therefore brings about a second instance of restraint of trade and also raises the specter of perjury being committed by Trialtir.
When Greg first raised this issue on the list, I volunteered to try and get to the bottom of the case and have exchanged a number of emails with Italy, in particular with Alessandro Colnago. Alessandro wrote among many other things:
- - - - - - "Questi prodotti rientrano nella categoria Colnago solo perchè il venditore nella descrizione indica che questo prodotto non è Colnago, oppure che anche Colnago utilizza o ha utilizzato questo tipo di pedivelle. Questo atteggiamento da parte del venditore è vietato dal regolamento di eBay, che lo introduce nella categoria "Misrepresentation, improper use and key word spamming ". - - - - - - which translates to: "These products enter under the Colnago header only because the seller indicates that the product is not Colnago, or has been or is used by Colnago. This type of behaviour is not permitted by the regulations of Ebay, which introduces it under the heading Misrepresentation, improper use and keyword spamming."
As a response to this rather outlandish claim, I wrote the following to Alessandro (in its original Italian version):
- - - - - -
"If a product appears in your original brochure with the complete description of the item, it effectively becomes a Colnago product. It is you yourselves who have defined it as such by including it in your brochure. An OE supplier is in fact to be compared to a subcontractor. Just as many outside framebuilders have supplied you with frames over the years, frames that have been sold as Colnago, the same should also hold for the components that you yourselves have sold as integral parts of your bikes.
You should in fact take a look at how Trialtir advertises on the internet.
If what you define as keyword spamming holds, it most definitely holds for the Trialtir webpage and as such should be suspended immediately. For your information, I found this page by a simple keyword search for Campagnolo with an internet search engine. There was no need to include the word Colnago. On this page, Trialtir defines Colnago Full bikes as Colnago frames built up with Campagnolo components. The page title does not say 'Colnago produced components mixed with those of other producers', but rather as Colnago Full Bikes.
In the Ebay rules and regulations it is written:
"Keyword spamming is the practice of including brand names or other inappropriate "keywords" in a title or description for the purpose of gaining attention or diverting users to a listing. Keyword spamming is unfair to members who may be searching for a specific item and receive search results of listings that are not selling the item. Users often are confused and frustrated by such tactics"
To therefore tie the Colnago and Campagnolo names in the description of a product that Colnago/Trialtir has and continues to advertise as one of their products is not inappropriate, nor keyword spamming as described above. - - - - -
This is where the communication stopped as Alessandro no longer deems it necessary to respond...
If this case continues and spreads throughout ebay, it could have rather important implications to our hobby. It would effectively be impossible to describe where a component was formerly used or would be period and original specification correct. My view is that this is therefore something that we should all get together to fight. Both Greg and I would be happy to receive your comments and views offlist.