A MAN was fined €5,000 and ordered to undertake 220 hours of community service (in lieu of 16 months prison time), for selling large numbers of counterfeit laptop chargers on eBay with an unauthorised safety trademark.
Mohammed Arif, of 10 Holly Drive, Lacken Wood, Waterford, pleaded guilty to two breaches of section 92 of the Copyright Act – “Fraudulent application or use of trade mark in relation to goods.”
The court heard that following an investigation from Katie Gill, Brand Protection Manager with UL – a global safety certification company that performs safety testing on among other things, laptop chargers – Mr Arif, a former Pakistan native living in Waterford since 2004, was found to be selling a large volume of counterfeit chargers using the name MunsterShop, with the unauthorised trademark of UL.
Mr Conor Doherty, prosecuting, told Waterford Circuit Court that Mr Arif was listing over €1.9m of stock (unsold) and €172,000 (sold) on the internet auction site. On July 30, 2018, UL initiated a test purchase of one of the counterfeit chargers bearing the unauthorised use of UL’s trademark. Upon examination, the chargers, which could be used in HP, ACER and Sony laptops, were found to be counterfeit and bearing the unauthorised use of the UL safety assured trademark. A second test purchase from Munstershop on January 25, 2019, for chargers to be used with ACER, Toshiba and Sony laptops, again revealed counterfeit products with forged UL trademarks. On foot of these investigations, the matter was passed on to An Garda Siochana and a third test purchase was made in September 2019, which resulted in a warrant being issued for a search of Mr Arif’s property on October 10, 2019.
Garda Stephen Noonan of Waterford Garda Station testified that upon searching the property in Lacken Wood, a box containing approximately 50 chargers was found upstairs in the house and a shed in the back garden contained “somewhere in the region of 2,000 chargers”. Garda Noonan said that the shed was set up as an office containing counterfeit chargers and forged UL safety labels. Garda Noonan said that it was understood that as Mr Arif received orders he would place the labels on to the chargers and then ship them to the customer. The chargers were originally purchased by him on the Chinese retail site AliExpress, and Mr Arif said that he didn’t realise that they were “replicas”.
Garda Noonan said the chargers, which were advertised as being “genuine”, retailed at €19.99. They seized a total of 2,154 chargers from Mr Arif’s property, which had a combined value of €43,058.46. Garda Noonan said, in interview, Mr Arif said that he was unaware that what he was doing was illegal and was extremely remorseful and apologetic for his actions.
On instructions from solicitor Ken Cunningham, Mr Conor Roberts BL said that upon arriving in Ireland in 2014, Mr Arif took up a course in Waterford Institute of Technology and has a good history of work behind him. He has three children by two different marriages and was entirely “tax compliant” throughout his dealings. Mr Roberts claimed that Mr Arif put the forged UL stickers on “some of the chargers, but not all of them” and the selling of the chargers without the labels was not considered unlawful.
In delivering his sentence, Judge Eugene O’Kelly said that the most significant aggravating factor was the “major risk of harm or injury to unsuspecting purchasers” who believed that they were buying genuine, safety tested products, which were in fact “cheap Chinese counterfeits, mass produced without any safety certification”. He said that the fake labels that Mr Arif was attaching to the products, which were examined in court, were “genuine looking” and good enough to “fool anyone except an expert”.
Judge O’Kelly took account of Mr Arif’s early guilty plea, his previous good character with no previous convictions, and the fact that he was a “hard working man”. He allowed him the opportunity to do 220 hours of community service in lieu of 16 months prison and fined him €5,000 with 15 months to pay.