It is illegal to “traffic” in counterfeit goods and/or services in the United States. The applicable Federal law is the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984 (18 U.S.C. 2320.)
While most auctioneers are probably aware of this law, some might not be as aware that the Act also applies to anyone knowingly selling counterfeit products.
In other words, if an auctioneer knowingly sold (or attempted to sell) a counterfeit product, he would be in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2320 just as well; if not knowingly then no violation.
The penalties for individuals (and companies) for such violations carry fines up to $5 million ($15 million) and prison times up to 20 years. Further, civil lawsuits can reward additional damages including lost profit, attorneys’ fees, etc. Lastly, severe violations can result in life in prison.
This pictured “Rolex” wristwatch is not; it is a counterfeit. In regard to the law, this Rolex trademark is identical with (or substantially indistinguishable from) a trademark that is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and very likely used without the consent of the trademark owner.
An auctioneer can be in violation by having actual or constructive knowledge (should/could have known) of the counterfeit mark — constituting knowingly selling or attempting to sell. This “should/could” standard would likely be judged by how the auctioneer holds himself out — for instance, “25 years selling collectible wristwatches at auction” or “Your wristwatch auctioneer” would suggest the auctioneer should have known.
It is prudent for auctioneers to be sure they are not putting up for auction any counterfeit products. The risks far outweigh the possible rewards.
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.