That Fake Rolex You Buy In China May Cost You More Than The Real Thing

from the after-customs-has-its-way-with-you dept

Petréa Mitchell writes in to let us know about yet another case where trademark protection is being abused. "A guy decided to bring back some obviously fake Rolexes from China as souvenirs for his family. This was probably not a bright idea in any case, but US Customs thinks it's worth fining him $55,300. The fine is allegedly based on the street value of real Rolex watches, but he points out that there's no way anyone would pay a full Rolex price for fakes as obvious as these. The government says he should be glad it's only $55,300, because if Rolex had gotten personally involved it could have been $100,000... per watch." This one raises all sorts of questions. The thing is, buying these fake Rolexes shouldn't be against the law -- selling them should be. However, the guy wasn't caught selling them. Either way, while aren't there more important things for Customs to be doing than fining people for wearing fake Rolexes?

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  1. identicon
    MD, 28 Mar 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Fake Rolex

    First, the obvious crime was importing in sufficient quantity to suggest it was a reseller operation. (Like drugs, I assume if you are caught with sufficient quantities, there's an automatic assumption in law of "trafficking"). Where do you draw the line? 1, 3, 5, 10? If it's too high, the smuggler could just recruit large families of "mules".
    Secondly, when you go through customs, all bets are off. They can ask you questions that are illegal for officers on the street. If you are a foreigner, they can arbitraily refuse you entry and then you have to (a) return home at your own expense and (b) file expensive papers to beg for the right to be let into the land of the free. If you lie on the customs form, all bets are off; so you MUST incriminate yourself. I bet he was clever enough to tell them "oh, yeah, I have a few fake rolexes" and the customs guy was having a bad day.
    The real crime here is the made-in-Disneyland IP policy with overly punitive fines. This is the same law, bought and paid for by big business, that says sharing a song is a $50,000 crime, with no proof of any damages required. (The constitutionality argument is winding through the courts still - is this cruel and unusual punishment?).
    The real lesson in fakes is, what is the real value of an item? If I can slap "Prada" or "Rolex" or "Gucci" on something and it looks like it's worth 100 times more, something is wrong.
    Oddly, Canal street does not sell fake Gucci or Armani suits or Jimmy Cho shoes or BMW cars - the difference between real markup and perceived value is not good enough there, so the difference between "real value" (what most people want to pay for it) and what the real makers charge for it, must be much smaller.
    Most brands are just a billboard for status; humans are monkeys fighting for pack dominance and will take the shortcut of fake status symbols to enhance their prestige and appear higher on the tree than they are.

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