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Am I Violating the Law buying fake designer bags?


If you buy fake designer bags for personal use, almost everywhere in the world, it’s legal to buy them but illegal to sell them.

According to US customs, travelers arriving in the United States are permitted to import one counterfeit article of each type, provided that it is for personal use and is not for sale.


“Customs officers shall permit any person arriving in the United States to import one article bearing a counterfeit.”

The law only applies to the supply side and not the demand side. But there are two major places where buying counterfeit goods is illegal: In France, you can face a steep fine and jail term for purchasing counterfeit goods, while in Italy, you can be fined. Because France is the heart of luxury fashion, it is a leader in and the most vigilant in trying to legally dissuade counterfeit products. 

In addition, customs in the United States will allow travelers to bring one fake product per category. Bringing more than that could mean you plan to sell them, and officers may confiscate and charge fees for them.

So why is buying counterfeit goods considered O.K. by the law? The notion of arresting or fining tourists for purchasing those goods is not an attractive proposition for the tourism industry.

Second, it’s difficult to distinguish between consumers who know what they are doing when they are buying counterfeits and those who don’t and think they are buying the real thing. It’s hard to prove people knew it was a counterfeit,” said Chris Sprigman, an intellectual property law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law who has written on copyright issues for the Freakonomics blog.