The new laws expand the definition of a trademark to include those registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Prior to the law Virginia only recognized trademarks that were registered in the state.
Under the new laws, the penalties for trademark infringement increased to a class one misdemeanor, with a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500. The law also added two class six felony charges for infringing on a trademark and possessing 100 or more of the same counterfeit trademark or merchandise valued at $200 or more. The penalty for a class six felony is one to five years in jail or up to 12 months and a fine of $2,500.
The laws also give law enforcement agents the authority to seize counterfeit items, property and profits connected to a trademark infringement.
The law was unveiled Monday by Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell. The legislation was the result of a combined effort by the State Attorney General's office, law enforcement, Virginia lawmakers, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"These new laws protect Virginia consumers from potentially harmful counterfeit products, while promoting legitimate business in Virginia," McDonnell said.
State delegate Ben Cline pointed out that Virginia is among the first states to toughen its counterfeiting penalties. A number of other states have started to move in this direction, as well. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to sign a similar law on Wednesday. Stronger anticounterfeiting bills are also working their way through state legislatures in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.
"Counterfeiting and piracy threaten consumers' health and safety, while shaking our confidence in the products we rely on and the brands we trust," said Caroline Joiner, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center. "This legislation will protect Virginia's consumers from dangerous and defective counterfeit and pirated products, while sending a strong message to the perpetrators of these crimes."
The Attorney General's Financial Crime Intelligence Center worked with law enforcement on more than 25 criminal cases that involved counterfeit goods in the last three years. Counterfeit products valued at $14.5 million were seized, a total of 45 arrests were made on state and federal charges, 24 state convictions for misdemeanor offenses were achieved and 11 federal convictions were handed down.