In the fight against intellectual property infringements, you need to know your vocabulary. There is a difference between counterfeit goods, replica items, and knockoffs, and it is important to know them apart because different laws, regulations and penalties apply when it comes to the selling and purchasing of these items. The fast-paced development of the internet, which provides an easy and deceptive breeding-ground for fake products, makes it almost impossible to keep track of authenticity when it comes to your purchases. Moreover, it creates such a large variety of fake goods on offer that it becomes difficult to understand what the legal repercussions are of selling counterfeits, replicas, and knockoffs. This article will explain, once and for all, whether or not it is legal to sell these products. It will also give you some insight into the rules of selling products on large e-commerce platforms.
When are products considered to be replica items, counterfeit goods or knockoffs?
It’s easy to get lost in a sea of attractive products when you’re shopping online, however, you must be extremely careful about checking what you buy. Scammers aren’t just selling their wares in back-alleys and street corners anymore. No, they are fully operational online, making it harder to distinguish between originals and fakes. There are various kinds of fake goods and it is important to know the difference between them since the penalties vary when it comes to the selling and purchasing of these items. Take a look at the distinctions here:
Definition of counterfeit goods
A counterfeit is a product that is made to look exactly like another product, thereby infringing upon the trademark of that product mark. The counterfeit product is meant to deceive customers into believing that they are purchasing an original, usually at what appears to be a great discount. It tends to be difficult to distinguish the counterfeit from the original, though they can usually be told apart by looking at labels, packaging, as well as quality.
Definition of replica items
Replica is a relatively new term coined by counterfeiters to promote their products online. If a replica is identical to the original brand’s product, it is illegal. However, if it is similar to an original design but not identical (for example missing the brand’s original logo), it is more like a knockoff.
Definition of knockoffs
A knockoff is a product that resembles another product, yet is not exactly identical. Sometimes reputable brands even sell knockoffs of other brands’ products and designs, taking inspiration from them. This is not illegal, but the original brand could take the party copying their idea to court for infringing on their intellectual property.
What is illegal to sell on the most popular ecommerce platforms?
Each e-commerce platform has their own list of items that are prohibited for sale on their platform. Counterfeits, replicas and knockoffs are illegal to sell on most e-commerce platforms, especially on the most popular ones like eBay, Amazon and Alibaba. In addition, there is an endless list of items that are prohibited to sell on Amazon, and it includes things such as drugs, weapons, fine art, cosmetics, and animals. To see the full list, follow this link. One is allowed to sell almost anything on eBay, but there are strict regulations one has to comply with. However, drugs and explosives such as fireworks are totally prohibited. Check the website for eBay’s full policy regarding restricted and prohibited items. Alibaba’s prohibited items list includes weapons, drugs, adult or obscene material, and medical devices. For the full list, see here.
Selling replica items, counterfeit goods and knockoffs
It is prohibited to sell replicas, counterfeits, knockoffs and unauthorised copies on eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba. According to eBay, selling such items can infringe on someone’s copyright or trademark, which is against the law and against eBay policy. Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting policy states that products sold on Amazon must be authentic. Failure to abide by their policy may result in loss of selling privileges, withheld funds, and destruction of inventory. Alibaba also has a clear anti-counterfeiting policy, stating that counterfeits, non-licensed replicas, or unauthorised items are strictly prohibited on the site. Such products will be removed immediately, and repeated posting of these items will lead to membership suspension.
Selling counterfeit goods is illegal in the U.S., though there aren’t currently any laws for punishing consumers for buying counterfeits. However, countries like France and Italy already have laws in place that punish tourists for buying fake designer goods.
Do’s and don’ts of selling products on ecommerce platforms
There are a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to selling products on popular e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba. To give you a better understanding of their policies we have compiled a list of some guidelines per platform.
Do: Have only one seller account – you cannot have more than one registered account.
Don’t: Add links to your website – this is against Amazon guidelines.
Do: Provide true and honest information at all times.
Don’t: Include any promotional information – avoid promotional info with your product images or title, since Amazon won’t allow anything of the sort.
Don’t: List products that are prohibited on Amazon – check the list of prohibited products here.
Find the full list of Amazon guidelines on their website.
Do: Be clear about the condition of your product to avoid disputes.
Don’t: Use stock photos when selling a used, refurbished or flawed product – you have to use photos of the actual item.
Do: Put items on sale, but follow the rules eBay set concerning the original price and tools to use when creating the sale or promotion.
Don’t: Contact other sellers to coordinate prices for you products.
Don’t: List products that are prohibited on eBay – check the list of prohibited products here.
Find the full list of eBay guidelines on their website.
Do: Undergo the authentication and verification inspection by Alibaba.com as well as a third-party verification company. This will show consumers that you are trustworthy.
Don’t: Post or list any products prohibited or restricted by a federal, state or local law in any country or jurisdiction.
Find the full list of Alibaba guidelines on their website.
The aim of this article was to inform you that it is illegal to sell counterfeit goods and that there could be serious penalties for doing so. Knockoffs are not always technically illegal, but the company or person creating and selling these products could be taken to court by the original brand owner for stealing their ideas. Replicas can refer to either counterfeits or knockoffs, so it depends on the product whether or not selling it is illegal. Selling counterfeits, replicas and knockoffs is always a bad idea for business and can have serious repercussions. Additionally, buying these items contributes to the problem.
At Pointer Brand Protection, we are committed to protecting your brand and consumers from counterfeits, replicas and knockoffs, as well as from trademark and copyright infringements.
Do you want to know more about our brand protection solutions? Contact us here. We would love to help you.