Friday, July 20, 2018

THE CRIME OF COUNTERFEIT TRADEMARKS IN ILLINOIS

Let’s say you want to sell 100 pairs of blue jeans. Your jeans are from a no-name brand, but if they had a fancy designer label, you know you’d make a lot more money. So you copy a high-end designer’s trademark and print it on your pants. Now you may be in the money, but you’re also in trouble with the law.

The Illinois Counterfeit Trademark Act makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to use, sell or circulate items with a counterfeit trademark or service mark. Even if you haven’t sold the items, you can be charged if you intended to sell and the items are in your possession. The Act also applies to services sold using a counterfeit mark.

Your charges may be upgraded to a felony if you sold more than 100 counterfeit items, had a prior conviction within five years or caused bodily harm as a result of your offense. Besides time in prison, the court may fine you a percentage of the retail value of the counterfeit items.

To convict you, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you (1) knowingly kept or had in your possession (2) with the intent to sell or dispose of (3) any goods or merchandise to which a counterfeit mark was attached, and (4) that you were not the rightful owner of such trademark. A counterfeit mark is one that is likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive.

For example, in People v Gueye, the defendant intended to sell handbags with fake Michael Kors, Burberry and Tory Burch trademarks. The State had to show that the marks were affixed to the handbags, and that they were identical to or substantially indistinguishable from the real ones. The court found that the false labels were in fact likely to cause confusion between defendant’s bags and the real thing, and thus upheld defendant’s conviction.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. The Trademark Counterfeit Act has a lot of moving parts. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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