Can a buy a product from a producer then do some slight modifications to it and sell it with a new logo and under a new brand name?

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Can a buy a product from a producer then do some slight modifications to it and sell it with a new logo and under a new brand name?

The product I would like to modify is an electronic device. Since I would prefer not to share my business idea with the world I will describe a similar scenario. Would this be legal? I would like to buy a microwave for example from hitachi, then make slight modifications to it such as painting it with different colors and replacing the “start” button with one that looks different. Maybe I would even ad a different looking digital timer. Then I would like to replace the hitachi logo with my brand name. Could I also advertise this acting like it’s a completely new product?

Asked on February 28, 2012 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, you almost certainly could not do this without the agreement of, in your example, Hitachi. What you suggest would fall under the rubric of unfair competition--trying to pass another's goods off as your own. It would also likely be considered a consumer fraud--misrepresenting to consumers what they are getting.

There is a legal way to do this: it's called private labeling. You contact a manufacturer, such as Hitachi, and ask them to manufacture a product for you without their logos and intellectual property. They make it and sell it to you, at a below-retail cost. You either have them put your logo on the product or add it on yourself. Now resell. This is legal because the manufacturer is functioning only as factory for you--there is no deception involved.


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