The internet has made it easy for people to sell items online to make some extra money. Popular websites, such as eBay and Craigslist, have made it easy for almost anyone to instantly go into business by simply using a computer or a cell phone to get into the retail business. However, you should be aware of the potential pitfalls of doing business like this. Recently, I was hired to represent a client charged with violating the Illinois Counterfeit Trademark Act. The Counterfeit Trademark Act (765 ILCS 1040/) makes it a crime to sell look alike goods or services bearing a fake trademark or logo. The client that I was hired to represent was selling knockoff high-end watches on Craigslist that he had purchased legally from China. The client was buying the watches for about $50 and selling them online for between $200 and $250. This was not the clients main source of income, but it made him enough money to comfortably pay his bills and provide for his family. That’s until the client was arrested charged with violating the Counterfeit Trademark Act. It was not until the client came to my office bad he found out that what he was doing was against the law and that it carried some pretty serious criminal and monetary penalties.
I want to discuss this crime and lay out the penalties and consequences of being charged with violating the Illinois Counterfeit Trademark Act.
The idea behind making it illegal to sell counterfeit goods is to avoid confusing and duping consumers. You can be guilty of violating the Counterfeit Trademark Act even if the buyer and seller are aware that the item is a knockoff. Not all knockoff items are considered to be counterfeit. For instance, gym shoes that look like the real Nike gym shoes are not automatically considered to be counterfeit just because they look like the real Nike gym shoes. What could make them illegal is if they have a Nike logo on them that looks like the real Nike logo. The fake Nike logo is what could fool a consumer into believing that its the real thing. Think of counterfeit goods as infringing on the Trademark of a brand and making money trying to do that.