Can you be sued for selling authentic handbags online?

Recently a friend of mine received a copyright infringement cease and desist letter from a popular luxury brand. If you have no idea what a cease and desist letter is all about, it is basically a letter than tell you to stop doing what you are doing else you may face legal implication. So what did my friend do wrong? She run a website that resell handbags and accessories of this popular luxury brand. All the handbags and accessories that she is reselling are authentic. Everything is going well, she buy cheap as she get VAT tax refund and she sell high. Her only mistake is she infringe their copyright by using their logo as representation of the brand she carries. According to the brand owner, this may mislead consumers in believing she is affiliated to the brand. Legally, my friend is wrong but she has no idea that it is so serious. After doing a little research online, she realise that there are many others like her who receive such similar cease and desist letter from the same brand requesting them to prove the authenticity of the items they are selling. Some are selling via a website while others are selling through ebay. It seem like this brand is trying to shut down the entire reseller market to force consumers to buy directly from their retail outlets instead.

The scenario described above is quite common these days. If you are facing the same situation, what should you be doing? Following are some recommendations if you are serious about selling branded goods online either via ebay or your own website or blog:

Use only Original Images, Logo, Photo and Content
Make sure all the images, photo, logo, content you use to market your product are original. Stop being lazy and take your own picture rather than stealing from the brand owner as that will infringe their copyright. The most common mistakes made by many online reseller is to use images that does not belong to them.

Do not sell Counterfeits and know who you buying from
You not only infringe the copyrights of the brand owner, it is also against the law in most countries to sell and possess counterfeits. There are many times that you unknowingly sell them as there are too many earlier transactions before you, that is why it is important that if you are planning to buy from another reseller, make sure his or her source is reliable.

Make a clear statement that you are not affiliated to the brand
Misrepresentation is often common mistake especially when you use the brand logo, it will give consumer the impression that you a representative of the brand. This one thing that most brand hate as it may tarnish their image. This explain why it is good practice to put a notice informing your clients that you are in no way affiliated to the brand

Next time if you receive such similar letter, do not panic and press the delete button. Understand your rights as trademark owners has no rights to prevent the lawful resale of its genuine goods even if you are not authorize to do so. Trademark owner’s right “generally does not prevent one who trades a branded product from accurately describing it by its brand name, so long as the trader does not create confusion by implying an affiliation with the owner of the product.

As long as your action is lawful no one can stop you from selling genuine luxury goods online.


The materials available at this webpage are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.