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There are fake Rolexs being sold on the internet for around £250. This is illegal, and those engaged in selling such items have been charged with unauthorised use of a trademark. It appears that the crime here is

the right is not in the claimant's unregistered trade mark but in the business conducted under that sign or mark. There is a requirement in some criminal law covering Intellectual Property, as detailed in the above sections of this guidance, to demonstrate that an illegal activity is carried out in the course of a business".

If the buyer wanted the watch for purely personal reasons, would they be committing any crime by purchasing it?

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    It is not a crime, but the goods can be confiscated at any border or post office when going to you or when crossing any border with you in the future. – Vladimir F Apr 18 at 14:03
  • @VladimirF: Would the same be true if the product was explicitly called counterfeit by the manufacturer, as opposed to trying to pass as the real thing? – Flater Apr 19 at 9:29
  • @Flater Yes if it contains any trademark labels or protected designs. – Vladimir F Apr 19 at 9:41
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If the buyer wanted the watch for purely personal reasons, would they be committing any crime?

NO

The offences are at s.92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 and all relate to either selling, or possessing as part of a business, such goods with...

a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another, and without the consent of the proprietor

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  • Well that explains ebay's wrath when I reported counterfit legos to ebay when I was having trouble getting defective parts fixed. Cutting and gluing bricks is not my thing but it had to be done that day. Here I actually said "counterfit doesn't mean worthless"; I just wanted the defective parts fixed even if it meant fixing the mold first. – Joshua Apr 18 at 14:14
  • I am surprised that that would not be aiding & abetting. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Apr 19 at 18:31
  • @MawgsaysreinstateMonica Good point, and technically it probably is in certain and specific circumstances. But the buyer is more likely to be a victim of crime, unless they're buying for re-sale etc then I would probably consider conspiracy offences instead of / as well as A&A if the evidence was there. – Rock Ape Apr 20 at 9:49
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While the question specifically asks about UK law, similar principles apply in law. Thus I will answer for the same issue in US law.

The relevant section of US Federal law is 18 U.S. Code § 2320 - Trafficking in counterfeit goods or services. This declares that anyone is a criminal who:

  • (1) traffics in goods or services and knowingly uses a counterfeit mark ...
  • (2) traffics in labels, patches, stickers, ... , or packaging of any type or nature, knowing that a counterfeit mark has been applied thereto, ...
  • (3) traffics in goods or services knowing that such good or service is a counterfeit military good or service the use, malfunction, or failure of which is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death, the disclosure of classified information, impairment of combat operations, or other significant harm
  • (4) traffics in a drug and knowingly uses a counterfeit mark ...

All of these refer to a person who "traffics" In this connection this will mean sells or tries to sell, or transports for sale, not buys.

Findlaw's page on "Buying Counterfeit Goods: Laws and Resources" says:

In the U.S., federal law protecting trademarks makes it illegal to knowingly traffic counterfeit goods, which includes the production, sale and transport of such goods. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has stated that federal law doesn’t prohibit an individual from buying a counterfeit product for personal use, even if they do so knowingly.

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In short, no, purchasing counterefeit good for personal reasons is legal. As long as you do not sell or legally claim the goods to be authentic (for insurance reasons or other), there is no law that stops you buying them, at least in the UK.

However, there are other risks involved, for example:

  • you could be sponsoring terrorism or organised crime
  • some counterfeit goods could be harmful, if they are made from certain substances or contain malware etc.

I doubt either of these apply to these watches although some metals such as lead or zinc can cause irritation or more severe issues.

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    Citations from UK law? – BlueDogRanch Apr 17 at 13:56
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    N.B.: Most corporations with products worth counterfeiting are already engaged in shady enough practices that buying an authentic piece is just as likely to support terrorism, human trafficking, organized crime, etc. You might as well save some cash and put less money into those industries. – bdb484 Apr 17 at 19:34
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    @BlueDogRanch How do you get a citation that a law doesn't exist? – wizzwizz4 Apr 17 at 19:38
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    @wizzwizz4 Presumably, BDR is asking about the rules that make it illegal to sell or claim the goods to be authentic – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 17 at 22:12
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    @AzorAhai-him- in the UK the "rules" are the Sale of Goods Act, and Trade Mark law in general. Section 13(1): "Where there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there is an implied term that the goods will correspond with the description." – alephzero Apr 17 at 23:04
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It may be illegal to use the item for its intended purpose.

As an example, construction codes typically require use of certified or approved building materials. Counterfeits are readily available from direct mail vendors - just look at the glut of very cheap to-be-wired-in smart switches and cheap fixtures found on sketchy direct-mail sites, including the Amazon Marketplace on amazon.co.uk. These bypass the safety apparatus which keeps dangerous and counterfeit goods out of home stores.

This can be a maze of regulations, whose sources can be quite obscure.

So in that case, yes; a person intentionally buying a fake e.g. smart switch either because it's cheaper or has a feature-set not yet available in a properly certified article, is afoul of the law.

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    This answer is true, but applies only to electronics and other regulated, technical products used in regulated trades. It does not apply to Rolex watches. designer clo0thes, and similar kinds of products, which is what the OP asked about, after all. – David Siegel Apr 18 at 6:45
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    The question asks about buying. This answer is about using. They are not the same thing. – DrSheldon Apr 18 at 16:18
  • Also, this answer is primarily about the USA, when the question was asking about the law in the UK. – nick012000 Apr 19 at 3:01
  • @nick012000 Because the US case is more interestingly complex, but fine. UKified. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 19 at 17:36

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