Those companies that have gone to great lengths to cultivate an image, as well as a reputation for creating highly desirable and durable goods will register their trademark -- i.e., their legally recognized logo and/or name -- with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. By way of example, you needn't look further than the shoes on your feet, the cell phone in your pocket or the shoulder bag sitting under your desk.
The purpose in taking this step is to provide the company with the exclusive right to use the mark, such that customers can readily identify their products in the marketplace and, perhaps more significantly, protect their reputation. Specifically, registering a trademark enables the company to legally prevent other companies from creating products using a similar mark that could cause consumer confusion.
What all of this serves to underscore is that federal law takes this issue very seriously. Indeed, it's important to understand that outside of just providing companies with the means to protect their corporate profits, federal law also sets forth exceedingly severe criminal penalties for those who engage in the trafficking of counterfeit goods.
For those unfamiliar with counterfeit goods, consider the aforementioned shoes, cell phone and shoulder bag. Here, counterfeit goods would essentially be poorly made copies of these products that are not made by the company, but which still use its exact trademark and/or name.
Under federal law, a person who knowingly traffics in counterfeit goods faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million for a first-time conviction, and up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million for a subsequent conviction. Furthermore, corporations found to be knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods can face fines of up to $15 million.
As to why the federal government takes this issue so seriously -- it seized more than $1.7 billion in counterfeit goods in 2013 alone -- it has to do largely with the issue of consumer protection. For example, counterfeit goods like electronics, toys or even pharmaceuticals are not manufactured in accordance with the nation's rather stringent standards and could conceivably harm consumers. However, consumer safety is not an issue in many federal cases. Federal prosecutions have been filed based upoon selling as few as 50 counterfit purses which were sold to customers who were told that the purses were counterfit.
In light of the forgoing, those under investigation or facing charges for trafficking counterfeit goods must seriously consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A., we can help those under investigation and are prepared to represent clients in the federal district courts facing criminal charges.