Fake goods, or “counterfeit goods”, are generic products that have been illegally altered in order to make consumers believe that they are brand-name goods.  This can involve the illegal use of a logo, trademark, or label.  For example, a maker of fake goods may sew a logo on a sweatshirt to make it appear like it’s the real thing. 

Common examples of fake goods include counterfeit electronics, perfumes, handbags and other items of clothing.  In particular, athletic shoes are highly subject to counterfeit issues. 

In general, in order to be held liable, a manufacturer of fake goods must have the intent to deceive public consumers into believing that their goods are a brand name product.  The product needs must lead to consumer “confusion” about the product or the brand name involved, and the trademark needs to be used without authorization from the true owner. 

Is it Illegal to Buy Fake Goods?

Generally speaking, it is very difficult to hold someone liable for purchasing fake goods.  This is especially true if the consumer didn’t know that they were buying counterfeit items. 

On the other hand, if a person is buying large amounts of fake goods with the intent to distribute them, they may be charged with a violation, since it is illegal to distribute fake goods for profit.  This can vary by state, but the wholesale purchase of large amounts of illegally faked goods may lead to an assumption that the person is intending to sell the fake goods.

What are the Legal Consequences of Selling or Distributing Fake Goods?

The legal consequences for selling or distributing fake goods can be somewhat severe.  These can include criminal penalties like:

  • Criminal fines (often in the tens of thousands of dollars)
  • Jail sentences (sometimes ranging from 5-10 years, depending on the severity of the violation)
  • Confiscation of the fake goods

In addition, a person who is caught selling or distributing fake goods is likely to face a civil lawsuit from the company whose brand was being abused.  The party may then be required to pay the company monetary damages for any economic losses they suffered due to the illegal use of the trade name.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I’m Facing Charges Involving Fake Goods?

Fake or counterfeit goods can cause many problems for both consumers as well as the owner of the trademark.  If you have any legal issues or disputes involving fake goods, you may wish to speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately.  An experienced criminal defense attorney in your area can help explain the local, state, and federal laws that may affect your case.  Your lawyer can provide you with representation during court hearings.