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

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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