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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?

Flag your eTitle as Lost or Stolen

In addition to documented authenticity and value retention, eTitles can also benefit customers in the unlikely event that their item is lost or stolen.

eTitle owners have the ability to instantly report a lost or stolen item through their account. Updating the eTitle status to “Reported Lost or Stolen” indicates that the item has been lost or stolen and the sale/purchase of the item is strongly discouraged.

Flagging your eTitle with a lost/stolen advisory status can aid law-enforcement in tracking the identification of the re-seller and protect potential buyers in the re-sale market.

How to Flag your eTitle as Lost or Stolen:

1. Go to and click the Sign In button.
2. Sign into your account.
3. Select ETITLES. 4. Select the MANAGE ETITLE button next to the item to flag. 5. Select the REPORT LOST/STOLEN tab. 6. Enter the date of incident.
7. Enter description of incident into “Additional Information” text box.
8. Select the SAVE button.

Should the item be recovered, the advisory status can be removed by logging into your account and selecting the ITEM RECOVERED button on the LOST/STOLEN tab.

Please note that some brands maintain a separate database of lost/stolen items. Please contact the brand directly to inquire.

The Hidden Costs of Counterfeiting

The repercussions of counterfeiting span much farther than the significant economic losses. In an interconnected global system, the hidden costs of counterfeiting pose serious implications that affect innovation, national security and the safety.

Consumer Health & Safety

Counterfeiting isn’t something confined to designer apparel. The newest commodities for counterfeiters are perhaps the most dangerous of all— ingestibles and personal care like medicine, food and cosmetics.

Unlike legitimate products that are regulated by government agencies, counterfeits have not inspected for safety. Unregulated and toxic ingredients found in such goods pose an enormous risk to consumers’ health- causing disfigurement, illness or even death.

Without safety standards, counterfeits become safety hazards to consumers. From exploding electronics to malfunctioning jet engines, counterfeits have the potential to threaten and take lives.

Environmental Damage

Generally, counterfeit products are not manufactured to the same environmental standards as legitimate goods. Examples of environmental damage have occurred in the chemical industry, whereby products like counterfeit fertilizers have caused serious environmental damage.

Diminished Rule of Law

Corruption directly undermines governance and the rule of law. Illicit trade is a criminal enterprise without regard for standards, regulations or the law.

Crime & Terrorism

Violent criminal and terrorist groups have been known to profit from illicit trade. The fake goods industry finances organizations linked to gambling, money laundering, drug trafficking, extortion, prostitution, and human trafficking.

Diversion of Funds

With the rise of criminal entities controlling illicit trade, the government is forced to divert increasing focus and resources to law enforcement efforts.

Border Security Threats

The distribution of counterfeit goods depends on the corruption of officials, unauthorized routes, and falsified documents– the same infrastructure used by criminal transport of illegal goods, weapons and terrorists.

Job Loss

The majority of counterfeiters operate overseas in China and third world countries. The International Anticounterfeiting Coalition estimates that counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses $200-$250 billion each year. That results in the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs.

Labor Conditions

Enterprises producing illicit products are much less likely to adhere to labor and safety standards. Workers assembling counterfeit goods are underpaid and overworked— and oftentimes are children who are forced to work in horrific slave-like conditions.

Tax Revenue Loss

According to the International Chamber of Commerce, the global trade in illegitimate goods has grown to approximately $600 billion annually, which accounts for 5 to 7 percent of all global trade.

Illicit goods deprive the government of tax revenue. Because counterfeits are made offshore and sold on the black market, there are no taxes paid to our government to improve the welfare of our country.

Stifled Innovation

Counterfeiting undermines innovation. It dilutes centuries of skill and craftsmanship and redirects the equity from legitimate brands to illicit goods.

Fighting illicit goods becomes a direct cost for brands and contributes to a less conducive business environment.

Fraud and Identify Theft

Buying illicit items online can put customers at risk of identity theft and credit card fraud. Counterfeit merchants are conducting illegal operations and have been known to steal personal and/or credit card information.

Buyer Prosecution

Although law enforcement efforts in the U.S. tend to concentrate on manufacturers and retailers, consumers are still at risk of facing prosecution. Consumers caught importing or purchasing multiple fakes may be charged with trafficking that results in fines or even arrest.


So why does counterfeiting remain so rampant? Consumer demand. If fakes weren’t being purchased, criminals would have no incentive to make and sell them.

You can help solve the problem by not buying counterfeit goods. To ensure you’re buying authentic, always purchase from a brand’s authorized dealer.

How Your eTitle Can Increase Resale Price

From artwork to luxury timepieces, authenticated pre-owned luxury goods are in high demand. In fact, authenticated items have proven to sell faster and fetch higher resale prices than unauthenticated merchandise.

Selling an item registered with a eTitle can mean more money in your pocket! Because you can prove your item is authentic, you have the potential to command a higher sales price.

Essentially an electronic title, a eTitle offers potential buyers real-time verification of authenticity and provenance. Interested customers can view the eTitle by searching the serial number through and instantly confirm the item is authentic.

When selling your item, you will find it beneficial to cite the benefits of your eTitle, which is transferable to the buyer (if the eTitle has previously been registered to you).

Provides Assurance to Potential Buyers:
– Proves item is authentic, not counterfeit
– Tracks distribution chain of the item from the brand to the authorized seller
– Confirms original seller as an Authorized Dealer

Provides After-Sale Benefits to Buyer:
– Documented and verifiable proof of authenticity (useful for insurance/resale purposes)
– Increased value retention
– Potential to command a higher sales price at resale
– Ability to report a theft or lost timepiece

How To Update Your eTitle For Resale

When you post your items for sale, you will want to update the eTitle status to “available.” This status update will show potential buyers who search your eTitle through that your item is available for sale and the eTitle is available for transfer to a buyer.

Update Your eTitle to an Available Status:
1. Go to
2. Click the Sign In button and log into your account
3. Click the ETITLES hyperlink or tile
4. Click the MANAGE ETITLE button next to the item you are selling
5. Within the eTitle details, click the dropdown menu next to eTitle Status and select “Available”

How to  Transfer Your eTitle to a Buyer

The cost of transferring a eTitle to a subsequent owner or buyer is a nominal 1% fee (1% of MSRP), which can be paid by either the owner or the buyer of the item.

Transfer eTitle to a Buyer:
1. Go to
2. Click the Sign In button and log into your account
3. Click ETITLES
4. Click the MANAGE ETITLE button next to the item you wish to transfer
5. Click the TRANSFER ETITLE tab
6. Select the radio dial button for the individual (Owner or Buyer) paying the transfer processing fee
7. Enter the recipient’s email address
9. If you selected the transfer processing fee to be charged to the Owner (you), enter your payment information and click ACCEPT

Once the eTitle is transferred to the buyer, they have complete control of their eTitle and will have full access to the lasting benefits of their eTitle.

Luxury and Resale: Frenemies or Friends with Benefits?

Luxury and Resale: Frenemies or Friends with Benefits?

Recent data has shown that Americans are increasingly considering resale value when making luxury purchases. This growing mindset has fostered the success of authenticated luxury consignment marketplaces like Vestiaire Collective, TheRealReal and Portero. Estimated to be worth about $34 billion, the luxury apparel resale market is one of the fastest growing segments in the retail industry. Offering customers guaranteed authenticity and luxury quality at a fraction of retail prices, buying pre-owned has also never been more appealing.

Once considered taboo just a decade ago, consignment shopping is now considered smart- particularly for designer merchandise whose prices have continued to rise. In recent years, luxury fashion prices have increased at more than twice the rate of general inflation. Take for instance, Chanel’s Classic handbag, which has increased from $2,250 to $4,900 since 2007.

But it’s not just the ultra-high luxury brands hiking their prices. Entry-level luxury brands like Coach have even begun to implement premium pricing. But in doing so, luxury brands have alienated the majority middle-class so that the average customer can no longer afford to buy new.

Luxury consignment marketplaces have seen the effects –and directly benefitted from– luxury’s pricing surges. When prices rise, “consumers turn to the resale market in search of an affordable alternative to purchasing a new [piece] at a higher price” says Evelyn Fox, CEO of Baghunter.

While next-generation consignment may have won favor among its customers, it’s certainly not a welcome addition in the eyes of fashion houses. To brands, the secondhand market undercuts their price positioning and stands a threat to new product sales. However, resale companies maintain that their services are beneficial to luxury brands.

For one, authenticated consignment provides a safe and legal alternative to purchasing counterfeits. Genuine pre-owned merchandise offers an alternative to buyers who intentionally buy fakes simply to save money. Typically, low cost replicas are low quality. For anyone who’s wasted money on a low quality fake, a like-new genuine article is a welcome replacement. In this situation, resale purchases have the potential to foster brand loyalty.

Pre-owned merchandise can also foster brand loyalty among entry-level, aspirational buyers. Take for instance a customer who purchases a pre-owned item because they can’t afford full-price luxury. The appreciation that grows from owning a genuine, high-quality luxury item can lead to the customer saving for a full-priced retail purchase.

In addition to brand loyalty, the resale market has even purported to indirectly encourage luxury retail purchases. Their logic is that when a customer knows they can easily fetch a high price at resale, they are more likely to purchase at full price. In an ideal situation, once they consign their item, they will put the money towards a new handbag or pair of shoes.

The promise of this luxury buyer cycle may have facilitated the recent partnership between Neiman Marcus and TheRealReal. Through their in-store cooperative, consignors can receive a Neiman Marcus gift card worth 10% more than the cash value of the items sold. The overwhelming demand for the pilot program quickly expanded from 6 to 34 stores. And just like that, Neiman-Marcus has attracted new customers.

There has been an undeniable shift by high-end consumers toward value. Regardless of their sentiment, luxury fashion houses would surely benefit from strategic partnerships in the resale market. Programs that encourage consignors to put their money back into the luxury retail market may be the antidote for brands concerned about resale affecting their bottom line.

The question remains whether additional luxury brands and retailers will follow suit to engage with the value-conscious customer.

Will the relationship between luxury brands and resellers evolve from frenemies to friends with benefits? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Avoiding Fakes in the Art Market: A Buyer’s Guide

Avoiding Fakes in the Art Market: A Buyer’s Guide

For art collectors, there is no fear greater than discovering that a once-prized work is merely a worthless forgery; a nightmare that has become all too common in the art world.  Instances of art forgery now comprise a major portion of the market – with estimates that at least 50% of all works sold are forged.

Yet, novice buyers aren’t the only victims of buying fake art. Forgeries have proven to fool even the most seasoned professionals and have infiltrated galleries, auction houses, and even museums. When authentication presents such a challenge for art professionals, it’s not surprising that collectors would have trouble determining legitimacy.

With the art market considered to be the largest unregulated market, collectors must be diligent about protecting their investments. Just as home buyers request inspections prior to purchasing a house, the same due diligence should be taken for art purchases, especially when you are going to spend upwards of thousands of dollars.

So what should buyers do to ensure the authenticity of artwork? First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the artist you’re interested in: their style, use of color, materials and signature.

Secondly, try to buy from reputable auction houses, galleries, dealers or vetted art fairs, which are required to certify the works they sell as authentic.

Another crucial step is to confirm the artwork’s provenance. Provenance is the documentation that certifies authenticity. Ideally, provenance should document the history of the piece from the time of creation by the artist until the present day. Details can include a record of owners’ names; dates of ownership; and means of transfer (if inherited or purchased via a dealer or auction).

Provenance can be established through a variety of sources, including:

  • An exhibition or gallery sticker attached to the art
  • An original gallery sales receipt or receipt from the artist
  • An appraisal from a recognized authority on the artist

Also, inquire as to a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). The COA should be signed by either the artist who created the art, the publisher (for limited editions), an established dealer or artist agent, or a recognized expert on the artist.  A legitimate COA should contain specific details including the name of the artist or publisher, the work’s title, the medium (i.e. oil painting, digital print, etc.), dimensions, edition size (for limited editions), and the and contact information of the individual or company that issued the certificate.

Keep in mind that a complete provenance history, especially for older pieces, can be rare. Oftentimes, collectors wish to remain anonymous and sales are done privately, which result in gaps in provenance. Nevertheless, purchasing a piece with incomplete provenance is risky.

In the absence of provenance, other methods may be required to prove a work’s authenticity. These include technological and scientific analyses, but are typically reserved for old masterpieces since the services are quite costly.

In conclusion, it’s a far wiser decision to purchase artwork from a reputable seller that is accompanied by complete provenance.

Are you an art collector? How does lack of provenance influence your decision to buy art? Let us know in the comments below.


How to Register a eTitle

Brands partnered with offer eTitle authentication– electronic titles that verify the authenticity, condition, provenance and ownership history of authentic products. Here’s how to register a eTitle for Michael Godard, TAG Heuer and National Geographic Fine Art.

How to Register a eTitle:

New Items Purchased from a Retailer 

Currently, eTitles are available for new items purchased from participating Authorized Dealers in the U.S. and Canada at the time of sale.

eTitles for such merchandise are registered via the point-of-sale application. This is a required action in order for the proper exchange of ownership to occur. If this action was not completed, we will need to contact the retailer regarding your purchase.

To further inquire about an eTitle for your purchase, contact our Support Team.

Items Purchased from Non-Participating Retailers

Items purchased from non-participating retailers may still qualify for eTitle registration. You may submit your item to a qualified Authentication Center for inspection. After authenticity is confirmed, an eTitle will be registered to you.

Authentication for Michael Godard artwork can be requested directly through Please click here to create a account and complete the eTitle request form.

Authentication for TAG Heuer timepieces can be requested by contacting TAG Heuer Customer Care (866-260-0460).

Pre-Owned Items

If the original owner has previously registered the eTitle, they will need to transfer the eTitle to you through their account.

If the original owner did not register the eTitle or there is no eTitle currently available for the item, the item will require Authentication Servicing.

Once registered to you, your eTitle provides benefits including:

  • documented and verifiable proof of authenticity and provenance (useful for insurance/resale purposes)
  • increased value retention
  • the potential to command a higher sales price at resale
  • the ability to transfer ownership if you if you sell or bequeath your item to someone else
  • the ability to report a lost/stolen timepiece

Please don’t hesitate to contact our Support Team for more information on registering a eTitle.

TAG Heuer has partnered with to offer eTitle Authentication for new timepiece purchases from participating Authorized Retailers in the U.S. & Canada. Purchasing customers can register ownership of their eTitle free-of-charge at the time of sale.

Once registered, the eTitle provides benefits including documented and verifiable proof of authenticity (useful for insurance/resale purposes), increased value retention, the potential to command a higher sales price at resale, the ability to transfer ownership if you if you sell or bequeath your item to someone else, and the ability to report a lost/stolen timepiece.

Visit to find participating retailers.

Buyer Beware: Counterfeit Instagram Ads

Shoppers should be especially wary of social media ads this holiday season.

Instagram has become the latest social media platform compromised by ads for counterfeit goods.

A recent study found nearly 20 percent of Instagram posts with luxury fashion hashtags featured counterfeit items. Examples included Instagram sponsored ads that appear to be for genuine goods, but direct customers to websites selling counterfeits.

With more than 400 million users, Instagram’s ads were introduced to monetize the platform. Evidently, counterfeit sellers are among the 500,000+ advertisers currently using Instagram to grow their business.

It’s no wonder use social media platforms offer counterfeiters to sell their goods; counterfeit scams can reach more people than ever before. With over 2.2 billion active users – around 30% of the world’s population – social media has become the world’s biggest marketplace.

Consumers are increasingly advised to use caution when purchasing items via social media. Online shoppers should pay particular attention to social media flash sales for luxury items. Fraudsters play upon customer’s sense of urgency with ‘limited time’ flash sales and lure them to sites designed to look like genuine brands.

Don’t be duped this holiday season! A good rule of thumb is to limit purchases on social media to reputable retailers. And when in doubt, abide by the timeless rule – if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

How to Spot a Grey Market Watch

This is the final post of a three part how-to series offering guidance for luxury watch buyers.

Although grey market products aren’t necessarily ‘illegal,’ customers assume certain risks when buying grey market watches. Grey market watches won’t have a manufacturer’s warranty or the same resale value as a watch from an authorized dealer.

Here are 5 ways to spot a grey market watch:

1. Discounted more than 20%
As a rule of thumb, authorized dealers are contractually authorized dealers are contractually restricted to offering no more than 20% off manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). If a watch is discounted 30-40% off current list price, it’s most likely grey market. Although there are legitimate occasions where an authorized dealer may offer more than 20% off current list price, these are typically limited to discontinued models, a watch that was previously purchased and returned, or stock acquired before a manufacturer’s price increase.

2. Invalid or missing manufacturer’s warranty
A watch is only covered by a manufacturer’s warranty if it includes the original warranty card, stamped with the authorized seller’s name, and is issued for US service.Warranty card checklist

An original manufacturer’s warranty card is required for in-warranty service by the manufacturer. A watch sold without a card or one that’s photocopied is not eligible for in-warranty service.

Warranty cards are often removed from grey market watches to protect the supplier who sold their merchandise to unauthorized dealer. This is because valid manufacturer’s warranty cards are stamped with the authorized seller’s name. A watch described as having ‘open papers’ means the warranty was not validated by the authorized dealer. In either case- a watch missing a warranty card altogether or one that is not stamped with the authorized dealer’s name- will not be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.

Other times, a grey market watch will include a foreign warranty card (i.e. written in a foreign language). This is because the watch was originally intended for sale outside the US, and will not be covered for service in the states. Just think about what you’d pay in shipping and insurance to obtain service in China… So, you’ll want to verify the warranty qualifies for in-country service.

3. Third party warranty coverage
Because grey market items are generally not eligible for manufacturer’s warranties, grey market dealers will offer their own warranties. However, dealer warranties are not honored by any other dealers or the manufacturer’s authorized service centers. Furthermore, the warranty is only valid as long as the dealer is in business. Thus, it’s important to consider the reputation and stability of the dealer. Otherwise, any repair will be at your expense.

4. Missing serial number
To protect the supplier, it is common practice for grey market watches to have the serial number removed from the caseback. A watch missing a serial number is an immediate red flag and can have serious implications for the buyer:

  • You could be charged with stolen property. Some state laws consider it illegal to possess an item that has had its serial number removed.
  • The manufacturer may refuse to service the watch and even confiscate it when sent in for service.
  • Your insurance company may deny a claim if your watch is lost or stolen.
  • It will impede the resale of the watch and your ability to obtain a decent sales price.

5. Product inserts in foreign language and/or photocopied
The booklet/manual accompanying a product should be printed in the county’s native language. For example, an item manufactured in the U.S. should include English text. If product inserts are printed in a language other than the country’s native tongue, it is indicative of a grey market product. Product inserts should also be original, not photocopied. If they are photocopied, this is an additional sign that it’s grey market. product.

How can you avoid buying a grey market watch? Ask a lot of questions. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Better Business Bureau suggests some advice to avoid buying grey market items:
Ask for seller status – Ask the seller if they are an authorized dealer. If not, you should consider shopping from a brand’s authorized dealer.
Ask about the product – Point blank, ask the seller if the item is grey market. Sellers are obliged to disclose whether they are selling a grey market product.
Confirm the warranty – Ask if the item has a valid warranty in the United States. If not, confirm whether the non-US warranty will be honored. If it will be honored, who do you call when you need repairs covered by the warranty (the dealer, manufacturer or service agency)? If you’ve already purchased a watch and come to discover it has an invalid warranty, you may be able to return the item for a full refund.
Verify the serial number – Contact the manufacturer to verify the serial number. If you discover that you’ve purchased a watch with its serial number removed, you should immediately contact the seller and insist to be refunded the full purchase price or that they provide a replacement with its serial number intact.
Use a credit card – A credit card allows you to dispute charges for a purchase of grey market merchandise misrepresented at the time of sale.

RELATED: HOW TO SPOT A FAKE LUXURY WATCH encourages you to buy luxury watches from authorized dealers whenever possible. has partnered with TAG Heuer and Richard Mille to offer eTitle authentication. To instantly verify the authenticity of a TAG Heuer or Richard Mille timepiece, enter the serial number into our Check Authenticity search bar. To find a Authorized Retailer offering eTitles for TAG Heuer and Richard Mille timepieces, we welcome you to visit our store locator page.

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