Following the July 27 post on the improving quality of counterfeit watches, we received a comment from a jeweler:
I don’t like putting batteries in them, I try to educate these people why not to buy them and they just don’t understand.
Which got me thinking: What should jewelers’ policy be toward “replicas,” when they are asked to repair or change the batteries in them? Generally, good retailers believe the customer is always right. But here, they are being asked to work on an illegal item.
It’s a tricky subject. Obviously, any authorized dealer of a watch brand will not want to go anywhere near a replica of that brand. But most of the people I spoke to, including the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, said they weren’t aware of any laws that would apply to this. At least one lawyer suggested jewelers who fix replicas could be cited for “facilitating commerce” in illegal products—though, again, there appears to be virtually no instances of that ever being raised legally, and others think that’s “a stretch.”
Rob Holmes, CEO of IPCybercrime.com, which specializes in policing trademarks, told me this:
Trademark laws are based on the sale of the trademarked item, so the repair would probably not land someone in a legal jam. But, from a moral perspective, advocating the purchase of counterfeits dilutes the brand and hurts the Industry.
Still, if you look on the Internet, you can find some sites that tout their willingness to repair fake watches. (I won’t do them the favor of linking to them.) I found some language on a website that does watch repair which seemingly offers an interesting, if strict, template for how to handle this:
Replica watches received by us from the customer will be documented for law enforcement purposes, and provided a repair quote or repair decline fee is paid, returned to the customer with NO REPAIRS, and NO INSURANCE value, and NO REFUND of any repair quote or repair decline fees. Replica watches with unpaid repair decline fees (more than 30 past due) are deemed abandoned property.