Counterfeit vs. Knockoff: What’s the Difference?

Although the phrases “counterfeit” and “knockoff” are often used synonymously, they are actually different. So, what’s the difference between counterfeit and knockoff products?

The difference between the two boils down to registered trademarks. A knockoff may resemble another product, but does not contain any identical logos or federally registered brand names. In general, knockoffs don’t necessarily violate trademark law. A counterfeit product, on the other hand, uses a brand name or logo that is identical or nearly identical to a registered trademark, which is illegal under trademark law.

A misspelling of a brand name or a logo that is different than the original manufacturer’s would be considered a knockoff, such as Dolce&Banana or Rolexe. Whereas a counterfeit product is designed to so closely resemble the original product as to be virtually identical to it. In this way, counterfeits are intended to perpetrate fraud upon consumers.

In the United States, the federal Lanham Act is the primary statute defining trademark laws. The Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising.

While it’s generally not illegal to purchase a counterfeit product, the sale of counterfeit goods (as well as knockoffs) is subject to criminal prosecution. Trademark owners may bring civil lawsuits against individuals who produce and sell counterfeits. And it’s not just the initial seller that risks prosecution; even the resale of counterfeit items is considered counterfeit activity.

When a customer who purchased a counterfeit handbag decides to sell it, they now put themselves at risk of civil and even criminal penalties.

Consumers can easily safeguard themselves from buying counterfeit items by purchasing from a brand’s authorized dealer. And as always, if you suspect an item is not authentic, use common sense.

Share your opinion: Is it okay to buy a knockoff?