Policy on Knock Offs

Is Buying a Counterfeit Handbag Illegal?

An individual consumer who buys a counterfeit handbag or fake handbag is probably not breaking any laws. However, manufacturers and distributors are criminally liable for trafficking knock-off purses. Those who host popular purse parties (the modern-day Tupperware party) are considered to be sellers of counterfeit products and are similarly liable for their involvement in these activities.

What are the Risks in Manufacturing or Selling a Counterfeit Handbag?

Manufacturers and distributors of knock off handbags can be prosecuted under state and federal law for violating trademark and copyright laws. The sentence for counterfeit crimes varies widely depending on the quantity and the value of the goods, but can be very serious. In June 2004, 17 defendants charged with international counterfeit trafficking in New York faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $2 million.
Sellers and distributors are liable even if they tell customers that the handbags are counterfeit. Moreover, manufactures and sellers of counterfeit handbags may also be sued in a civil suit by the company whose trademark is being infringed.

Why does the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Care about Counterfeit Handbags?

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the DHS has an increasing interest in the trafficking of counterfeit handbags. According to the ICE, international terrorist networks rely on money coming from the sale of counterfeit products such as knock-off CDs, movies, T-shirts and drugs. And while no direct link has been established between counterfeit handbags and terrorist organizations, the ICE believes that a potential link is there. Consequently, the ICE has become increasingly involved in local raids in an attempt to trace the money and activity to international terrorist organizations in other countries.