Millions of people flood the market stalls around the world in search of a perfect copy, a perfect copy of a handbag that they cannot afford. Others flock to web stores and social groups where they hope to find a good quality replica based solely on the photos and reviews they see online. Every time a replica is bought there is a risk: as a buyer, am I doing something illegal or unethical? We are here to answer those questions.
AN ILLEGAL BUYER?
The first is the first. As a buyer, you are never illegal. The responsibility of the act is the seller and only the seller. If you decide to buy a replica of a bag and then resell it, you could be liable. However, if you are just buying, you are contributing to the demand and supply of market replicas. In this scenario, you need to make sure that, as a buyer, you are buying from a seller who is trustworthy and who is not part of a clandestine or illegal industry that lurks beyond brands and bags.
COUNTERFEIT OR REPLICA?
Before getting into the legal and ethical discussion, it is important to distinguish and compare the differences between counterfeits and replicas. Counterfeits are objects that pretend to be real with real copies of trademark labels or symbols. They are intended to be designed to mimic or copy the original product and be as identical to it as possible so that everyone can be fooled into believing it is the real deal.
Designer handbags are a very popular item to counterfeit, and only the best and experienced savvy shoppers are able to determine the real from the fake. This is done by examining the seams, the orientation of the patterns, and the quality of the leather of the metals used to finish the bag.
A replica, on the other hand, is not intended to be another brand and while it looks the same and is also well made, the original manufacturer's markings or exact design are only used for inspiration and likeness purposes. Electronics is a great example of replicas. There are so many phones and tablets that are designed with Apple and Samsung in mind, however the brand recognition and reliability are not there.
When comparing the two, the replicas are just an imitation. They are an imitation that annoys the big brands since the replica has copied everything except the patterns and finishes of the brand, but in this case, the replica manufacturer fully complies with the regulations. If you buy a replica of a bag and decide to resell it, you can do so without breaking any laws.
Designs are not protected by copyright law, although designers continue to pressure Congress to change this. Since it is not illegal to copy the general design of a bag if you bought a bag that is simply in the shape of the famous Hermes Birkin bag, it does not necessarily carry an illegal fake. It may just be a clever imitation. However, if you are carrying a bag with the Louis VuittonLV logo on it or Hermes is engraved on the zipper and you paid much less than the market price, it is most likely a fake.
Counterfeits play a very different role. Huge amounts of money have been invested by different big brands to try to prevent counterfeits from hitting the market or taking market shares illegally. Most of the time, the big brands don't get their money back, but the seller takes legal action. In addition to brands, the buyer is a victim.
Some counterfeits look so similar and are priced similarly to the original that it is difficult for a buyer to tell that it is a counterfeit. They also keep the product because reselling a fake is illegal. Buyers should buy products with caution and seek expert advice just in case.