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To many people, buying or selling a 'knock-off copy' of a branded item may seem a relatively minor matter but, given that brand owners invest billions of pounds annually in promoting their brands, it is unsurprising that the law which protects their rights is stringent.
Nowhere is the problem more acute than when fake designer goods are made available on the Internet. However, the sale of such items, by whatever medium, is an offence. In a recent case, a husband and wife team who made a fortune selling counterfeit watches have each been stripped of more than £700,000 of their ill-gotten gains.
The couple had run a popular website on which fake watches bearing Rolex, Cartier and other well known brand names were sold. Their business was eventually raided by Trading Standards officers and they pleaded guilty to four trade mark offences. They were given community sentences but confiscation proceedings ensued.
A judge found that they had benefited from crime to the tune of more than £1.5 million. Their available assets were assessed in the same amount and each of them was ordered to pay £768,508 within six months or go to prison for three years. In rejecting their challenge to the confiscation order, the Court of Appeal found that the judge was entitled to conclude that the couple had hidden assets.