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Is it legal to buy products from manufacturer in china and resell it in another country?

Chicago, IL |

I want to build my own online store, to sell products locally (in my country). Is that legal if I purchased the products from the manufacturer and sell it in my store? is there any legal documents or agreements between me and the manufacturer that should be obtained first?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. You need to be very careful with products from China, because Asian countries have extremely lax (in other words, none that are actually enforced) IP laws.

    That means the products could be copyright and trademark infringing. And since these are "strict liability" torts, if you're in the chain of distribution, your intent doesn't matter, and liability for distribution of products like that will rest with the easy-to-reach US company --that is, yours. You may also have customs seizure problems if your volume of products is big enough.

    Even if the manufacturers are wiling to sign something that claims that the products are original and genuine, and they agree to indemnify your company for any damage, they're not easy to sue, and their indemnity agreement may be worthless if you can't actually sue them and collect from them.

    See your own IP lawyer for help before you start this business.

    Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


  2. Ms. Koslyn has very well described the IP issues of Chinese manufactured goods. If you have never been in business, foreign trade is not the way to start. Clearing customs with your goods, forms of payment in international trade (e.g. letters of credit) and enforcement issues for non-conforming goods are the tip of the iceberg. You really should invest in some time with a local business attorney in Chicago or do a lot of online research. Not a little, a lot.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


  3. It is legal if the products are authentic and not counterfeit. But if you operate an online store, you have a duty to make sure that the products that you sell are legitimate. Unfortunately, China and other asian countries are locations in which many unscrupulous manufacturers produce unauthorized knock-offs of goods. Thus, you have to be especially careful when you import goods from China. You should have written assurances from chinese manufacturers that the goods are authentic---and you should also check with the trademark owners of the goods to verify this. You need to understand something---even if you were not aware that goods are not authentic, you can be held criminally liable for trafficking in illegal goods. You need to protect yourself by making a record that you obtained written proof that the goods were authentic. Remember--dealing counterfeit goods is a strict liability offense for which you can face both civil and criminal liability (although in most instances criminal liability is limited to the most egregious and blatant wrongdoers). Running an on-line store is a serious business, and you need to be especially vigilant when you import goods from foreign nations such as China that are known to be havens for production of fake goods.


  4. It is legal if the products are legal and authorized and do not infringe anything, otherwise you can get into one mellofahess. So without knowing what products you have, how are we to know?

    There are legal documents, warranty of non-infringement, warranty of authenticity, warranty of right to make, warranty of no conflicting obligations to others, agreement that the Chinese company will clear customs not you. Documents showing they have been selling in the US, and specifically Illinois, to others without problems the same products. Documents agreeing to jurisdiction in IL courts over the Chinese company. Assumption of product liability risks by the manufacturer. Documents showing a US base with assets sufficient to recover from should they violate any warranty. A performance bond guaranteed by a solvent US company.

    The more of those you get the better. The fewer you get the more risk you take. If you take risk, you may want another document, an insurance policy covering that risk or some third party (purchaser?) agreeing to indemnify you, provided the purchaser has deep pockets enough to actually make the indemnity worth anything.

    So, you need a business lawyer from IL to get you as much of that as possible and, if that works out for you, then you may want an IP lawyer to look over the product to see if it seems low risk.

    So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.