For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the Internet is an extremely useful tool that provides myriad ways to build a business and earn a good living. And one of the most common ways that people use the Internet to make money is through the sale of consumer goods. Of course, companies like Amazon dominate the sales of commercial products, but anyone with a vision can get in on the act and sell their goods on sites like eBay or Etsy.

But if you do choose to have a go at selling your own goods on the web, you must be extremely careful not to impinge on trademarks that have been previously established by other companies. A trademark can be a symbol, slogan, name or word that is used by a company as a means of distinguishing its services or goods from those of other companies.

And consumers often use trademarks as guides for their purchases. For example, the name Nike is trademarked, as is the company’s famous Swoosh logo. And when a customer sees the word Nike or the Swoosh on a product, they typically believe that the item is the genuine article.

Due to the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984, it is a federal offense for anyone else to use a counterfeit variation of a trademark for the purpose of selling a good or service. And the penalties for violating this act can be extreme. An individual who is caught using a counterfeit trademark can be fined as much as $2 million and issued a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Multiple trademark convictions can fetch much harsher fines and prison sentences.

So while it may be tempting to use counterfeit trademarks as a way of drumming up sales, you can be facing serious consequences if caught. And if you have been charged with violating the Trademark Counterfeiting Act, or any other federal law related your online business, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney could help you explore your legal options.