The federal crime of counterfeiting generally refers to the old crime of printing and passing fake money. Under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 471, “whomever, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined…or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
Today, however, the term counterfeiting, has been more broadly stretched to cover many different criminal offenses. Counterfeiting may, in fact, include the manufacturing or distribution of goods under another person’s name, and without permission, in an attempt to profit off inferior materials and cheaper imitations of brand name products. Trademark counterfeiting is a crime unto itself.
It is also a crime to traffic in counterfeit goods and services. Thus, any individual or company that knowingly sells a counterfeit product may face criminal charges under the federal Trademark Counterfeiting Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2320, which carries substantial monetary fines up to $5 million and prison time up to 20 years to life.
We defend all counterfeiting cases by strictly interpreting the provisions of the statutes. In counterfeit currency cases, a suspect will not be guilty of counterfeiting if we can establish that ordinary people would be able to determine the difference between a real dollar bill and the suspect’s crude printing job. The law requires the counterfeit currency to be indistinguishable to ordinary people, but a poor imitation may not pass the test.
In the case a counterfeit trademark, we will first demand proof that the allegedly infringed trademark used in packaging, labeling or elsewhere is registered by its rightful owner in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We will also demand proof that it was used on goods without the consent of the trademark owner. We may be able to establish that consent was given, in some cases.
A crime can only be proven if the alleged counterfeiter had actual knowledge or constructive knowledge that the product in question was a counterfeit trademark. We will therefore examine all facts and circumstances to demonstrate that the suspect could not have actually known, or otherwise come to realize that the packaging or labeling bore a fake trademark.
If you or someone you know has been implicated in a counterfeiting offense, please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.