In the most generalized understanding, counterfeiting can be described as the sale or use of fraudulent imitations of genuine goods. With that far sweeping definition, it can be confusing to know what actually qualifies as counterfeiting.
Counterfeit or infringement
Trademark counterfeiting is related to trademark infringement, but they are not the same. Your trademarks identify your business, and by default, the goods and services you provide. When another vendor attaches your logo to their product and sells it as the real deal, you and the potential buyer are victims of trademark counterfeiting.
Trademark infringement is a bit more nuanced. If a vendor uses a logo that is similar to yours, it could cause confusion for potential buyers. The likeness may be accidental, and no harm to your brand was intended. In more nefarious cases, the third party is aware of the similarity and continues to market the goods regardless; benefiting from the quality reputation your brand is known for.
Trademark counterfeiting has criminal consequences, constituting as a federal offense for prohibited counterfeit items such as currency, postage stamps and legal documents. Counterfeiting happens on a global scale, and losses of approximately $600 billion were estimated in 2016.
Closer to home, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department seized $1.2 million worth of counterfeit hoverboards from a warehouse in September. The toys had counterfeit labels, including stickers certifying the products had been tested and met the company's safety inspections. Given the numerous news stories about hoverboard safety hazards, having counterfeit toys claiming safety standards were met, when in fact they were not thoroughly tested, is a legal nightmare.
Registering your trademarks can give you a leg up when fighting counterfeit allegations and seeking legal advice is always recommended. Is your intellectual property protected?