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An old friend recently asked me to purchase some replica "beats" (headphones made by monster) which authentically (depending on the model cost between 120$-500$) so I started to look them up online and found ones that cost 400$ authentically for 50$ (replica). One day I was walking around the Bet Midrash and I find this book called copyright in Jewish law so I opened it and decided to look up my case of Halacha and it seemed from there that it would be Asur to purchase these replicas so I sent some to ask the Rosh Kolel of Hoshen Mishpat at the Bet Midrash. He replied that it would be Asur to purchase. However, I wondered to myself how all the time I see Jews wearing replica Louis Vuitton belts etc. so I asked my friend to ask his Posek in Israel (I have to talk to him directly BN tommorrow) but it seemed like the Posek in Israel was Matir. Does anyone have any information about this? What about placing a logo on an item such as Louis Vuitton logo onto a car (for example)?

Sumamry: are replica items of clothing etc. (e.g. Louis Vuitton belts) Mutar to be purchased? And if purchased must they be returned or destroyed?

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How is this different than copying a cd or book which Rav Moshe dealt with? –  sam Feb 26 '13 at 0:55
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@sam Well for one, as far as dina demalchusa is concerned, it's not so clear cut if clothing designs can be copyright. –  Michoel Feb 26 '13 at 12:00
    
Surprisingly enough buying knockoff fashion is essential for the fashion industry. Without it the main brands would not survive. The cycle goes like this: New fancy product, people who want to look fancy buy it. Knockoffs are made, everyone buys it to look fancy (i.e. status symbol). Now everyone has it, so it's not longer fancy (it's not a status symbol anymore). The main brand make a new expensive item to act as the new status symbol. And the cycle repeats making the brand lots of money since people keep having to buy the new expensive item. Classic en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good –  Ariel Feb 26 '13 at 19:49
    
@Ariel, I don't think high prices of designer items are more desirable because of knock offs. I think the value is independent. You might be able to argue that you're not hurting the creator because you wouldn't have bought the original anyway, but I don't think you can argue that you're helping the creator. –  Seth J Jun 18 '13 at 0:12
    
@SethJ See my link en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good the value is not independent. You are helping the creator - by making copies the old design is no longer desirable, which spurs more sales. If not for that people would not need to constantly buy a new fashion item. There is a fine line of course, overdo it and the creator can't sell anything at all. –  Ariel Jun 18 '13 at 2:19
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1 Answer

This question can be approached from different perspectives.

First is the is what the law of the land is. Although halacha does not always follow secular law, in questions of business conduct we are obligated to follow the law of the land, which we know by the term "dina d'malchuso dina." On this, Rav Yitzchak Shmelkes (Beit Yitzchak, Yoreh De'ah 2:75) wrote, "I am not aware of any Torah source that prohibits copying a Torah work without the authority and permission of the author." However, he states that one must obey copyright laws that the civil government enacts due to the Talmudic rule of "dina demalchuta dina." This rule, literally, "the law of the government is the law," obligates Jews to follow many laws of the land in which they dwell. So, if secular copyright law makes it illegal to make and sell imitation products, then that is reason enough for Jewish law to forbid trading in such illegal items. Note that these days copyrights extend not to just works of writing, but to designs, music, and computer programs, for example.

Second, we want to avoid participating in a fraud. If the seller is selling a Rolex for $250 on the street, its either fake or stolen. Selling things under a famous trade name, when they were not manufactured by that company, is a violation of the Biblical principal of "ona'ah" (cheating someone in business). Lev. 25:14 ("And if you sell anything to your fellow or buy anything from your fellow’s hand, you shall not wrong (AL TONU) one another"). See Bava Metzia 49b - 58b. Likewise, buying knockoffs is also forbidden, even if you personally know they are imitation, as you are supporting the sinner's activity.

But a different case would be if a manufacturer made something that looked similar but not identical to a more expensive design, and did not claim it to be anything other than what it is. For example, when my wife and I were getting married, we registered for a china pattern that was similar to a Royal Daulton design we liked, but made by Mikassa and noticeably different than the Royal Daulton so much that they could not be confused. Since we paid the value of a Mikassa and not a Royal Daulton, the transaction was totally honest and there was no issue of "ona'ah."

Getting back to the Rolex watches for sale cheap, I mentioned that there is a possibility that instead of being fake, it was stolen. Where one has reason to believe that the goods are not imitation but stolen then it is forbidden to buy such objects (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 366.1). Even if this is only a suspicion (but one based on good assumptions, such as the price is incredibly low, or its being sold in a suspicious way etc) it is also forbidden to buy it (see Taz ibid).

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I think most people know (or at least expect) that a fifty dollar rolex isn't real) –  Shmuel Brin Feb 26 '13 at 23:28
    
@ShmuelBrin: I increased the value of the fake watch to $250. I was recalling what I once saw them selling for at Liberty Park in Manhattan -- but that was a long time ago. –  Bruce James Feb 27 '13 at 16:41
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