Selling Counterfeit Goods Online: How Much Trouble Can It Be?

On behalf of Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. posted in felonies on Monday, May 13, 2019.

Once upon a time, you had to look in some pretty shady places if you wanted to buy a fake Rolex or some other high-priced item. Even just a few years ago, you might have to figure out how to get on the "Dark Net" if you wanted to buy some high-quality knock-off goods.

Today, you can probably find what you're looking for on Instagram. If you can't find it there, it's probably on eBay or Amazon. The problem of counterfeit goods -- of varying qualities -- has become so bad that many sellers are hawking their fakes right out in the open. Shops specializing in counterfeit goods pop up, dump their knock-offs as quickly as possible and disappear again all the time.

Well, selling counterfeit goods is actually a serious crime. It damages the brands that are having their products duplicated economically (and by reputation). The sale of counterfeit goods is also a major source of funding for terrorists and other criminals. As such, the government is seriously cracking down on counterfeiters when they catch them -- and the penalties are stiff.

For example, individuals who are convicted of counterfeiting a trademark -- like a label on a purse or the packaging on a laptop -- can be imprisoned for 10 years and fined $2 million for a single offense. (Multiple charges can earn you a 20-year sentence and a $5 million fine.) The penalty for selling fake pharmaceutical products is similarly harsh.

It's important to understand that social media platforms and other online marketplaces are increasingly willing to assist law enforcement's efforts to catch online counterfeits. Doing business online through fictitious companies doesn't offer any real protection from the law -- so it's definitely not a good time to take the risk.

If you've been charged in connection with the online sale of counterfeit goods, you may have several possible defenses available to you. Talk to an attorney with experience handling federal crimes about your options.

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