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Is Trademark Counterfeiting a Felony Under Maryland Law

Trademark Counterfeiting is usually seen by Maryland Criminal Attorneys in Baltimore and throughout the State in the form of counterfeited movies and compact discs. Many people are surprised to hear that it is not only a serious criminal offense but can even be a felony depending upon the total retail value of the counterfeited merchandise possessed by the defendant.

I have a new client who was recently charged with possession of counterfeited movies in Baltimore County Maryland. He is a resident of Connecticut and was merely passing through Maryland when he was profiled by a Maryland Transportation Authority Police Officer just prior to entering the Harbor Tunnel. The client, who is a young African American man, acknowledges that he was speeding as alleged by the police officer but everyone knows that he wasn’t really pulled over for travelling 62 in a 55.

The MTA officer approached the car and in yet another example of a troubling pattern by Maryland law enforcement officers, claimed that he smelled the odor of burning marijuana. I have blogged about this issue several times but it really is getting to the point where it is almost a reflexive action for these cops to claim they smell marijuana to give them probable cause to search any vehicle they want – and the judges by and large let them get away with it. One would hope that sooner or later the judges are going to tire of hearing this testimony by police officers in cases where no burning marijuana was ever found.

In this case not only was no burning marijuana found, no drugs or even paraphernalia of any kind was found in the vehicle and my client was not under the influence of marijuana or anything else. What the police did find was a large number of counterfeit movies and compact discs that, according to the charging documents, had a total retail value of $17,000. Of course my client disputes that figure but does agree that the total value was in excess of $1,000 which is really all that matters.

Pursuant to the Annotated Code of Maryland, Criminal Law Section 8-611, a person may not willfully manufacture produce, display, advertise, distribute, offer for sale, sell, or possess with the intent to sell or distribute goods or services that the person knows are bearing or are identified by a counterfeit trademark. If the the total retail value is under $1,000 it is classified as a misdemeanor punishable by 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $1000 for a first offense. For subsequent offenses the fine increases to a maximum of $5000. If the total retail value exceeds $1,000 it is classified as a felony and is punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years and a fine of $10,000. Needless to say my client was quite surprised at the severity of the maximum penalties. Moreover, as I explained to him, the entertainment industry aggressively pursues these cases. I have yet to see a case in Maryland where there was not an industry representative in court and fully prepared to testify as to the trademark that has been infringed as well as the retail value of the counterfeited merchandise.

The bottom line is that trademark counterfeiting is considered a serious crime in Maryland and anyone charged with this offense should seek the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

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