Using the Law to Fight Counterfeiting

Counterfeiting is a global problem. Those involved in counterfeiting erode public confidence in consumer goods. Even worse, revenue from the sale of counterfeit goods often fund organized crime and terrorist groups.

In addition to promoting consumer awareness, those in the fight against counterfeits use the courts as a tool to crackdown on counterfeit goods, deter would-be counterfeiters and punish them in hopes they will not re-offend.

Counterfeiters in the News

Look at current events in the news for examples of those that do the crime, and pay the fine (and potentially a prison sentence).

Coach recently won a $5 million lawsuit against Frederick Goodfellow, a Memphis flea market owner. Courts demonstrated that Goodfellow was aware that fake Coach products were being sold at his flea market.

In the UK, Michael Reeder–a heavy seller of counterfeit electronics merchandise–was sentenced to 30 months in prison for selling counterfeit headphones.

A couple was sentenced for making counterfeit $20 bills. Larry Malmay received 27 months in prison along with three years probation. His partner in crime, Kellie Craig, received five years probation.

Jeffrey Telsey, a Florida business owner, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for shipping counterfeit Gillette razors to stores.

Sentencing Will Get Harsher

bill in the UK will make selling counterfeit products for profit a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill is intended to help companies protect their intellectual property.

Sellers are not the only ones that need to be aware of how counterfeiting could get them in trouble.

Targeting Purchasers of Counterfeits

Efforts to criminalize counterfeiting in the United States has focused on targeting the sellers; although, that’s about to change if a proposed bill passes through City Council in New York.

If passed, the legislation will be the first of its sort in the United States to criminalize the purchase of counterfeits. That Prada purse a tourist purchased in Chinatown for $20 could end up costing the buyer a fine of up to $1,000 or up to a year in prison.

Is criminalizing the purchase of counterfeit goods an effective way to fight the counterfeit problem? Perhaps.

It works in France according to Valerie Salembier, who runs a non-profit dedicated to educating consumers about counterfeits. She attributes large fines and hefty prison sentences as the reason “they don’t have a big problem with counterfeits in France.”

Those purchasing counterfeits in France risk being fined the equivalent of $478,000 and up to three years in prison.

Regardless of whether the law targets sellers or buyers with stiffer fines and prison sentences, using the law to fight counterfeits can be tricky business. This is where experienced private investigators come in. They are hired to root out counterfeiters and ensure that their allegations hold up in court.

Photo Source: Flickr

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