You have probably seen them or even purchased them before: Fake designer sunglasses, handbags, or other goods are often available to purchase at a fraction of the price of the real thing. But is it legal to buy counterfeit goods? Keep reading to find out.
Walking the Line
It is an urban myth that buying knockoff goods is against the law. To be clear, it is not illegal to buy counterfeit goods. This legend was born in the spring of 2011, when a councilwoman from New York City proposed making the purchase of fake handbags a misdemeanor offense. The measure, which failed to pass, would make the purchase of counterfeit handbags punishable by a $1,000 monetary fine and a possible jail sentence. Simply put, you can still purchase your fake handbags in New York City’s Canal Street without the fear of being arrested or fined by law enforcement officers.
That being said, selling fake goods does come with legal repercussions because doing so is trademark infringement, and that is against the law. Selling a pair of goods that look like the real deal is risky, but if the seller does not claim they are real and does not use the original company’s logos, then he or she is in a safer position when it comes to the law.
Unfortunately, despite some research on the potential legal and economic effects of counterfeit goods, there is minimal data or actual numbers. This makes sense, however, because purchasers and sellers of counterfeit goods are likely not going to openly disclose their inventory or purchase habits.
Trickle Down Effect
While you may want to justify purchasing a knockoff on the fact that you are getting a bargain or that you will not go to jail, understand that there is a trickle down effect from the counterfeit goods market.
The Government Accountability Office notes that the sale of counterfeit goods negatively impacts the revenue received by the business that owns the trademark. Beyond costing the company money, it could also cost its employees their jobs. The counterfeit goods market also affects the workers who make the fake products. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development notes that there is a high likelihood that counterfeit products are made in sweatshops, which contribute to human rights’ violations.
Additionally, counterfeit goods can stifle innovation because it is a disincentive for companies to create a high-end brands if their brands or trademarks are going to be fraudulently used. Moreover, because fake goods are sold on the black market, no one is paying sales tax on those transactions. Accordingly, the government needs to make up that lost sales revenue by some other means.
Simply put, while a law enforcement officer cannot arrest you for buying counterfeit goods, it does not mean that you should. Purchasing these items contributes to the deterioration of the legal product market and likely contributes to human rights violations. If you have any questions about the law, or have been hurt in an accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parry & Pfau today.
(image courtesy of Tamara Bellis)