Is it legal to buy a product, alter it, remove identifying marks, and resell under another label?

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Is it legal to buy a product, alter it, remove identifying marks, and resell under another label?

I would like to sell custom Bomber Jackets in an online store, under my own label.
It is cost-prohibitive to produce them from scratch, but possible to buy them in
bulk from wholesale dealers and resell them. However, presumably any jackets I
buy will be branded by the manufacturer. I want to know if it is legal under
copyright and trademark law to alter these jackets custom embroidery, patches,
etc., remove the maker’s tags and replace them with my own, and resell them
without giving mention or credit to the original maker, essentially passing them off
as an entirely new product.

Asked on September 6, 2017 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is illegal under the Lanham Act and unfair competition law: you would be passing off another's product as your own, which is considered an act which can confuse customers as to the origin of those products. Doing this exposes you to considerable liabilty (i.e. the manufacturer, if it becomes aware of this, could sue you for alot of money).
IN ADDITION, if the design of the jackets is itself copyrighted (or covered by any patents, including a design patent), as it may be, then removing the marks would not eliminate the copyright (inherent in the design in this example) or any patents, and so you'd also potentially be violating the manufacturer's copyright and/or patent, too, thereby being liable on this basis, too.


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