When services or goods are represented as originating from a legitimate source, although they are actually unauthorized reproductions of an existing trademark, the crime of piracy or counterfeiting may have been committed. An offense in regards to piracy and counterfeiting may include not only the creation of fraudulent goods and documents, but also the alteration of legitimate items.
Because piracy and the trafficking of counterfeit goods are regarded as an international and inter-state business, the crime is largely regulated by the federal government. However, the state of Ohio has the right to enact laws that criminalize activities in relation to counterfeiting, though the power to punish the act itself will belong to the United States Congress.
Laws and Penalties
Counterfeiting laws are very serious and often quite strict. Though counterfeiting money is perhaps the most popular example of this crime, that option is becoming increasingly difficult within the United States thanks to the creation of newly designed bills. Instead of being charged outright as counterfeiting or piracy, documents that have been counterfeited usually result into charges of forgery or fraud. However, in many cases, the distinctions can be blurred.
Clothing is another item that can be regularly counterfeited, and as a result it is currently a significant area that is being targeted in the law. The laws on counterfeiting in Ohio can be found in Title 18, chapter 25 of the US code, with section 471 focusing directly on the counterfeiting of US securities. While charges for duplicating US obligations and securities are regarded as the most serious counterfeiting offenses, other crimes in piracy and counterfeiting are also regarded seriously. Penalties include:
- For the counterfeiting of US securities such as currency, fines of up to $250,000 can be given, alongside 20 years in prison.
- For foreign securities and obligations that are counterfeited, prison sentences can be over 25 years.
- Counterfeiting goods such as t-shirts, or piracy of DVDs, music, and other products that are then sold for a profit can lead to charges similar to those associated with US securities.
- The penalties in place for counterfeiting any product or service are very harsh within Ohio, and indeed across the United States. Any individual convicted of the crime of piracy or counterfeiting will be charged with a felony. As mentioned above, the fines for this crime can reach up to $250,000, and prison sentences can exceed 25 years. Additionally, if financial loss or gain occurs in the case of counterfeiting, a sentence can be made even heavier. It is also worth noting that the specific nature of the counterfeit item involved in the case may also have an impact on sentencing. For example, those who combine the parts of various notes together might face ten years in prison instead of 20, while those counterfeiting gold bars can face up to 15 years.
Counterfeiting & Piracy Defenses
Similarly as with most crimes, the specifics involved in a crime of piracy or counterfeiting can have a significant impact on the sentence that is given. Because the punishments involved in counterfeiting cases are often so severe, it is important to note that there are also options for defenses that can be used in court by trained and experienced lawyers. For example, in order for a counterfeiting claim to be made in the first place, the complainant must own a registration in the trademark office of the United States for a trademark that is substantially indistinguishable from the alleged counterfeit mark. In other words, if the counterfeit looks different enough from the original, the case may be dropped.
One other defense that lawyers might use in a case of piracy or counterfeiting, is that the defendant had the right or permission to create the counterfeit product. For a counterfeiting or piracy case to be considered by the court, the mark that is under question must represent an unauthorized use of the complainant’s trademark as registered with the United States. In other words, if the accused goods were created with the permission of the owner of the trademark, then the products that result cannot be classed as counterfeits, and the process for creating those products cannot be counted as piracy.
Finally, if you are charged with counterfeiting US currency, you can argue that you had no intent to defraud. You can also make the argument that the quality of the fake currency is so poor that it cannot be legally defined as a counterfeit.
Statute of Limitations
As a matter of federal law, the statute of limitations in Ohio for piracy and counterfeiting remains at five years, which is the same as in all other states. However, instances that may be considered as terrorism may extend the statute to eight years.
Ohio Counterfeiting & Piracy Cases
- Ohio woman facing five counts of counterfeit charges in Howard County for using counterfeit bills
- Counterfeit NBA Finals gear seized in Cleveland
- Eastlake man indicted for selling counterfeit tickets to sports events and concerts in Cleveland
- Ohio man pleads guilty Android app piracy
- Ohio appellate court reverses trademark counterfeiting conviction in State v. Troisi