Yard sale groups on Facebook are the new way to sell your gently used clothes, electronics and furniture without the hassle of actually setting up for a yard sale. They are usually setup by your city name, and you can find some pretty good deals. But, with all good deals comes the buyer beware.
Discussions within those groups have recently centered on the ability to resell goods that you know are not genuine. For example, purses made by PRADO versus the legitimate PRADA. Or, sunglasses with a Ray-Band logo shaped almost exactly like a well-known pair of Ray-Bans. Is it okay to resell these items. Does it make it more okay to resell them, if you let the buyer know it is a fake or a knock-off?
The law against selling fake bags, sunglasses or any other designer items deals with trademark law under the Lanham Act. It is trademark law because the United States does not recognize or give protection to clothing and designer items under copyright law. For example, the distinctive Louis Vuitton “L” and “V” intertwined points to source, which is trademark law. Trademark law is concerned with confusion in the marketplace and alerting the general public as to who made the product and what kind of quality you can expect.
If a seller sells a fake good, then the seller is selling counterfeit goods and is violating trademark law. This is true regardless if it is 1 item, 500 items or 5,000 items. If you are wondering if this is a real thing and if people “really care,” then you only have to look to last week’s news. A decision came out last week with an award of $41 million dollars. Let me type that again – $41 million dollars.
This past week, designer Tory Burch successfully received a decision awarding her $41 million dollars due to an online manufacturer selling counterfeit goods bearing insignia looking much like Burch’s well-known and recognizable ISIS cross designs. The crux of the case focused on whether the infringing material was likely to cause confusion in the marketplace.
See more, by reading the article on Fashion Times.
The person who bears all of the responsibility is the seller. Similar to social media yard sale groups, the purchasers of the look-alike Tory Burch materials knew they were not buying actual Tory Burch merchandise. In cases of trademark infringement knowing you are buying a counterfeit piece really does not limit the seller of any real liability. While the case is on a much larger scale than your one-time yard sale posting, the Burch case is similar to what is happening on these Facebook yard sale groups. The social media yard sale groups are just conducting their activities on a much smaller scale.
So, how big of a deal is it really? Selling a counterfeit good, even just one, is the legal equivalent in punishment to car theft, in most places. Big name stores like Walmart and others have been busted for selling counterfeit goods. And, let’s not forget “purse parties” held by your local PTA or church groups. This is where one lady brings in a collection of “designer looking” bags as a fundraiser and everyone goes home with a close to, but not quite designer handbag. These are just as illegal. In fact, one New York socialite was found guilty once she was busted with $60,000 in a bedroom drawer with years of unclaimed income to the IRS.
See more, HERE about Purse Parties.
While you might not be manufacturing trademark infringing material, it is still not okay and could land you in very hot water to sell counterfeit goods. If you must have those designer bags or clothes, but are a little cash-strapped, I do have some suggestions. I am currently loving Rent the Runway where you can rent designer gowns and cocktail attire for a short amount of time for less than you can purchase something just so-so. For the accessories there is Bag, Borrow or Steal which is the same concept as Rent the Runway, but is for bags, shoes, belts and jewelry. It is a way for you to legally get your designer fix without possibly dealing in counterfeit goods. Another good source of gently used designer duds is your local thrift stores who specialize in such items. Check out some of those instead. I get it; a girl’s gotta have her fashion!
What is your take on counterfeit goods? Do you see any problem with this? Take part in the Comments section below and Stay Tuned In!
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