QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
BY SHARON WOLFF Creative Media & Merchandise Consultant to Wolff's Flea market
Vendors are responsible for monitoring their own merchandise.
Originally published May 2015
Edited 11/17/16, 3/7/2017, 5/5/18, 2/19/2020
- WHAT IS A COUNTERFEIT? Counterfeit products are illegal fake copies of real products. People knowingly or unknowingly buy or sell counterfeits. Other related terms: fake, copy, replica, forgery, knock-off, bootleg, pirated, unlicensed, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, look-alike.
- IS THERE A LAW? The Lanham Trademark Act is the federal law prohibiting counterfeits. It bans the use of: copied pictures, words, symbols, logos, etc. except to original trademark owners. This law protects brands and their intellectual property.
- WHY DON’T YOU ALLOW COUNTERFEITS? We strive to uphold the law and maintain our market as a legitimate shopping venue.
- WHO CARES? We care because counterfeit products are illegal, deceptive and poor quality. Brand owners, legal firms, US Customs, and other governmental agencies send investigators into flea markets to raid, arrest and sue individuals and market owners. Additionally, stores, individuals, mall kiosks, wholesalers, importers, manufacturers, websites and street vendors are also routinely busted and/or sued. Unfortunately, counterfeiting continues.
- WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE COUNTERFEITED? In one word: EVERYTHING. Every brand and type of item is vulnerable. Trendy and expensive items are highly desirable and fall prey to counterfeiting over and over again.
- WHAT DOES “CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR” MEAN? Counterfeiters may create an item with a pattern, logo or packaging design that closely resembles the real product and causes you at first or second glance to associate it as authentic. A brand name or logo may not actually be present, but pattern, color combination, packaging, wording, etc. may be very similar. Other terms: trademark dilution. #designersdespisedilution
- WHY DO STORES SELL “COMPARE TO” ITEMS IN SIMILAR BOXES? Comparative advertising is legal in the US if item is “clearly identified, truthful, and non-deceptive" (wikipedia). However, we occasionally see lawsuits between companies. Read more here.
- WHAT ABOUT THOSE SPORTS “PARODY” T-SHIRTS? We currently do not allow sports parody (also known as mash up designs) shirts. This is a subjective and gray area of ongoing research.
- COME ON, IT’S A FLEA MARKET, PEOPLE DON’T EXPECT TO FIND THE REAL THING HERE! It is illegal to sell counterfeits, wherever you are. We work hard to maintain our reputation for offering legitimate goods and NOT counterfeits. #afakeisafake
- WHAT IF I TELL THE BUYER IT IS COUNTERFEIT? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. #afakeisafake
- BUT THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T CARE AND WANTS IT. It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. We recognize that the counterfeit industry is fueled by consumer demand for look-alike, cheap, trendy products. #againafakeisafake
- WHAT IF IT IS ONLY ONE ITEM? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. Did you know that several trademarks or patents may apply to only one item? #youknowitafakeisafake
- WHAT IF I DIDN’T KNOW? Well, now you know, so put it away. Repeat offenders may be ejected from the market. 99% of our vendors choose to be educated and safe. However other vendors have been permanently ejected over the years for selling counterfeits.
- WHAT IF IT IS USED? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise, NEW or USED.
- WHAT ABOUT “THAT GUY” OVER THERE WHO IS SELLING IT? If you see someone selling banned merchandise, please give us a space number and we will check it out. You may do this anonymously. 847-524-9590
- CAN I JUST SELL IT TODAY? NO. It is illegal to sell counterfeits.
CUSTOMS AND PORTS OF ENTRY
(click on photo to read small print)
- WHY WAS I ABLE TO BUY THESE COUNTERFEITS TO BEGIN WITH? We enforce our own rules, and cannot answer for the manufacturer, importer, store, guy, other flea market, website or wholesaler where you bought the counterfeit item(s). Unfortunately, even when vendors make good faith efforts in asking their source about the legitimacy of their purchase, they may be told that it is "ok", when it is in fact counterfeit. Counterfeiting is a worldwide problem that is not limited to flea markets. Only a fraction are stopped at ports of entry. Some components separately enter the country through regular mail and are assembled into counterfeits here.
A COUNTERFEIT MICHAEL KORS EMBLEM
WAS PLACED ON A CHEAP BLANK YELLOW PURSEArrests can and do happen, so we need to stop it HERE and NOW.
- WHAT IS WOLFF’S DOING TO STOP COUNTERFEITS?
|#3 IS REAL. THE OTHER PATTERNS|
ARE CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR/DILUTED
- We have a 3 part program: Prevention-Intervention-Education (PIE).
- We conduct ongoing research.
- We monitor hundreds of vulnerable brands and licenses. We do not allow certain highly counterfeited brands: Coach, Louis Vuitton, MAC, Beats by Dre, Otterbox, Gucci, Chanel, KatVonD, Kylie, Yeezy.
- We monitor Homeland Security's categories of merchandise: Apparel/Accessories, Footwear, Watches/Jewelry, Handbags/Wallets, Consumer Electronics, Consumer Products, Pharmaceuticals/Personal Care,Optical Media (music, movies), Toys, Comper/Accessories.
- We analyze products according to many parameters.
- We use hands-on training with photos and items to teach staff and vendors about counterfeits.
- We vigilantly patrol our markets.
- Vendor arrests: NY, IL, WI, IN, TX, FL, MO, KY, SC, MA, CT, NC
- Coach: Swap Shop, FL ($5.5M), Visitors Flea Market, FL ($42M/bankruptcy), New Hampshire, Chicago,
- Louis Vuitton: Eisenhauer, TX ($3.6M), Swap Shop, FL (undisclosed, but over $5.5M)