Egypt, always the newsmaker, has made headlines for providing their Olympic athletes with fake Nike knockoffs as official training gear.
Synchronized swimmer Yomna Khallaf tweeted that the training gear provided by the Egyptian Olympic Committee wasn't actually Nike. The bags had the Nike logo but they also had Adidas-labeled zippers, according to her tweet.
Somehow it seems unlikely that the supplier intended to provide two brands rolled into one.
The Egyptian government has now admitted that the gear provided was counterfeit and Khallaf reports that athletes will be getting real Nike gear for the Olympic Games.
Sure it was a knockoff but based on the reports the gear probably wasn't stolen, so no harm no foul. Right?
The real answer in terms of liability is "maybe."
Let's ignore the fact that this issue happened in Egypt and consider what would happen if the counterfeit goods were bought and distributed in the U.S.
Counterfeiting products that are protected by trademark, copyright, or patent is illegal both under federal law and in most states. For the person or business that produces the counterfeit goods that can mean a criminal suit for violating the law as well as a civil suit for intellectual property infringement.
But for the people who buy the counterfeit goods there aren't many repercussions.
Buying counterfeit goods isn't like buying stolen property. It's not illegal to purchase knockoff sneakers even though it may seem unfair to the real producer.
The legal ramifications are unclear but something has convinced Egypt to not use the fake Nike knockoffs and buy real gear instead. Looks like shame might be a better motivator than liability.
- In Other Olympics-Uniform News, Egypt's Athletes to Wear Knockoff Nike and Adidas (New York Magazine)
- 5 Chicago Mall Vendors Charged With Selling Counterfeit Goods (The Chicago Criminal Law Blog)
- Louis Vuitton Wins Counterfeit Bag Lawsuit (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)