Monday 8 April 2013

New York clamps down on fake handbags

Using copyright to protect fashion has alwasy been difficult (see my posts here and here) so I thought it relevant to post an update on how New York City Council is seeking to clamp down on fakes, albeit by using trade mark law rather than copyright.

Margaret Chin, a City Council Member, is pushing for a law against buying counterfeit handbags in New York. In 2011 Chin proposed a local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the purchase of counterfeit goods. The law had been stalled since 2011 however the New York Post now reports that Chin and lower-Manhattan residents are petitioning for a hearing on the measure.
© TannerKrolle

The draft legislation provides that:
"No person shall purchase a tangible item containing a counterfeit trademark when such person knows or should have known such trademark is counterfeit for reasons including, but not limited to, the quality and price of the purchased item, and/or the condition of the seller and the sale location."

It goes on to say that:
"Any violation of the provisions of this section shall be deemed a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year and a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars, or a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars for each violation, or both, and such penalties shall not limit or preclude any cause of action available to any person or entity injured or aggrieved by such violation."

The legislation would make it illegal to buy fake handbags with a US$1,000 fine and up to a year in jail as a deterrent. Whilst selling counterfeit bags has always been illegal this move to target purchasers is intended to reduce custom for the bags and to provide the police with a tool to take action more easily.
Chin says that "People are worried that some innocent middle-aged woman might unwittingly purchase a [counterfeit] bag. If you go into a back room, basement or van, you probably know what you’re doing is not legal."

Most consumers don't know that buying a fake handbag isn't, in itself, illegal, raising questions as to how effective this legislation might be. Others have argued that to take counterfeiting seriously, it should be treated in the same as theft: those caught buying fakes should be punished.

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