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Consumer Law

Proposal to Make It a Crime to Buy a Fake Designer Bag in New York City Sparks Criticism

Posted Apr 27, 2011 1:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Chinatown is known for its cheap knockoffs of pricey designer handbags. But a New York City councilwoman whose district includes the neighborhood wants that to change.

So Margaret Chin is planning to introduce a bill soon that would make it a crime, punishable by a $1,000 fine, to purchase a fake designer bag, reports the New York Post.

Although the knockoffs clearly violate trademark law, there was little sympathy on the streets for the companies whose brands are misappropriated by the fakes, according to both the Post and the New York Times.

Instead, women—even among those who hold out themselves for expensive real-deal designer bags—say they think a potential misdemeanor conviction and a $1,000 fine for what at least arguably amounts to participating in a theft is excessive.

"I don’t believe in child labor and I don’t believe in supporting terrorists, but if I want to buy a knockoff, that’s my business,” shopper Cabrina Whitam of New Jersey told the Times as she visited Chinatown recently.

However, a Fordham University law professor offered a different perspective. Shoppers in France and Italy can be fined as much as $1,500 for buying knockoff bags, notes Susan Scafidi, the head of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham. But, contrary to what some irked shoppers are predicting for New York City if Chin's bill passes, tourism has survived.

"People have not stopped going to Paris," she tells the Post.

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