A counterfeit handbag is basically a fake brand name purse. Counterfeit bags and purses are made to look nearly identical to the original, pricier versions. These handbags are sold for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars less than the authentic designer brand.

In the United States, there are federal laws, including the Lanham Act and the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act, to protect against and punish those that make and sell counterfeit products, including handbags.

What Constitutes a Counterfeit?

Federal trademark law outlines the necessary factors for a product to be considered counterfeit. This includes:

  • Someone knowingly and purposely uses a licensed trademark of a legitimate pursemaker and replicates the trademark (which can be, for example, a distinguishable emblem);
  • The handbag trademark is used without the express permission of the original trademark owner;
  • The purse trademark is officially registered with the federal trademark offices; and
  • The fake handbag will most likely create confusion amongst handbag shoppers which will lead consumers to believe that the original handbag maker endorsed the phony purse.

Because of trademark violations, it is illegal to manufacture and sell counterfeit handbags. While in most instances it is not illegal to purchase a counterfeit handbag, it is illegal to purchase such handbags knowing that they are counterfeits with the intent to resell them as genuine articles. Also, if consumers knowingly purchase counterfeit goods, it only contributes to the continuation and promotion of the unlawful activity.

What are Knockoff Purses?

Sometimes the terms counterfeit and knockoff are used interchangeably. However, there can be a distinction made between the two. Counterfeit handbags are typically made with inferior materials and are sold on the black market for a fraction of the price of brand name bags. It is difficult to tell the difference between a counterfeit and an original designer purse. Counterfeits are created to look as close to identical, to the original handbags they are replicating, as possible.

This is in contrast to “knockoff” bags or replica handbags. While these knockoff types of purses are also most often made with lower-quality materials than the original name-brand bags, in most instances, they are not intended to be exact copies of the original brand. Instead, they are considered, by many consumers, to be a more affordable look-alike in comparison to the original designer handbags. Knockoff bags usually have their own brand name and emblem but may replicate the design of a brand-name purse. The colors available may also differ from the designer bags. Many knockoff styles can be purchased in reputable department stores.

What Laws Protect Against Counterfeiting Handbags and Other Products?

The Lanham Act is the key federal trademark law in the United States. The Act details the process for trademarking a good. It also sets out who is protected by the act as well as the remedies available to those protected by it. The act prohibits many activities, including: trademark infringement, false advertisement and the dilution of a trademark. It was originally passed into law in 1946 but has been amended several times since then.

The Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act is a 2006 law that bolstered existing remedies for counterfeiting crimes. The act requires that counterfeit goods be seized and destroyed by law enforcement officials. It also calls for any tools or other property made to create the counterfeit goods to be forfeited. This act also calls for the seizure of any fake labels even if they are not attached to a product, such as a handbag, as well as any copycat packaging.

What are the Penalties for Counterfeiting or Reselling Fake Designer Handbags?

The penalties for counterfeiting or reselling luxury, designer handbags vary and depend on the specific circumstances of the case. In general, though, the consequences can be quite severe with jail time as long as 10 years and fines up to two million dollars for a first offense. Subsequent offenses may warrant a longer imprisonment period and a steeper fine.

Where are Counterfeit Designer Purses Made and Sold?

The issue of counterfeiting products, such as designer purses, is a global one. The United States Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents confiscate tens of thousands of counterfeit goods that are illegally brought into the country from around the world.

The fraudulent goods coming into the United States wind up being sold by individuals or dodgy companies on the internet, open markets or other storefront operations. There are also counterfeit manufacturers within the United States as well.

Should I Call a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Counterfeiting is a serious offense with severe and life-long consequences. A knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you in understanding the legal options available. If you or someone you know has questions regarding the legal process surrounding counterfeit goods, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.