What is the penalty for selling fake designer bags?

Updated March 23, 2017

Imitation is thought to be the best form of flattery. However, if you have to compromise your integrity to emulate someone, maybe imitation is more of an insult. On a daily basis, actors, athletes, and icons are seen in the media wearing the best garments and handbags that money can buy. The fans and other onlookers want to look and dress just like them. However, just because a fan has the same taste as their favourite pop culture celebrity, does not mean they have the same bank account. Manufacturers of fake designer goods are well aware that you cannot afford to pay hundreds, or thousands, of dollars for designer handbags. So they provide you with an opportunity to cut some financial corners. A lot of people are taking this same route. The counterfeit industry is a multibillion-dollar business, but it is illegal.

The Penalty

The penalty for selling fake designer bags is a violation of the federal trademark law which is more commonly known as the Lanham Act. This legislation was named after Fritz G. Lanham, the Texas state representative who created it. The act, passed in 1946, prohibits false advertising, trademark dilution and trademark infringement. The trademark law is different in every state, but wilfully, and intentionally, selling fake designer goods that are protected by a copyright or trademark is a federal offence. First-time offenders can even face up to 10 years in prison and a £1.3 million fine.


Copyright law does not protect a design. This means if you sell a bag that is the same cut or shape of a famous designer, you are not breaking any laws. But if you include a logo or embroidery that is protected by a trademark, you are committing a crime. A trademark is a name, design, logo or phrase that is specific to a particular brand.


Timothy Trainer, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition Inc., believes there is a parallel between the sale of counterfeit merchandise and the sale of drugs. "You have to go after the counterfeit infrastructure. You can arrest one dealer off the street, but the key is to shut it down at the manufacturing level."

Buying Fake Designer Bags

You are not breaking any law by purchasing a fake designer bag. However, you may be a funding source for organised crime. Trainer says that when you buy a counterfeit designer bag you are supporting a "foreign black economy." If you resell a fake designer bag, you are subject to prosecution.


In 2007, Walmart was found guilty of "willful blindness" after the famous retailer sold fake Fendi wallets and handbags. According to Fendi's owner, LVMH, Walmart failed to check if the supplier was an authorised reseller. In 2008, LVMH sued eBay for not policing its site correctly. LVMH confirmed that 90 per cent of the Dior and Louis Vuitton goods that were sold on the online marketplace were fake.

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About the Author

LaShon Fryer began freelance writing in 2006 while pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Temple University. Her articles have been published on the Web sites: Spend On Life, Powerful Voices for Kids and The Media Education Lab. Currently, Fryer is pursuing her Masters Degree in Broadcasting Telecommunications and Mass Media at her Alma Mater.