Monday, March 7, 2011

Reselling Apple Products Double Redux

Dear Rich: I saw in a previous post you wrote in regard to a question from a person wondering if it was ok to resell Apple products; your response was, ‘yes,’ as long as they weren’t grey market, the logo wasn’t removed, and as long as you don’t pretend like you’re an authorized reseller. My question comes from some of the recent penny auctions I’ve seen selling the items at a discount so to speak: 1. How are they allowed to sell these products for a ‘discount?’ 2. How are they allowed to advertise these products? 3. The last item I won from these auctions actually was shipped to me from Amazon.com. Is it possible for these auction sites to legally advertise Apple products, have an auction for them, and then purchase them from Amazon.com and simply have them shipped to the winner? 4. If a person wanted to sell Apple Products that they bought from craigslist or ebay, could they start a business with ‘Apple’ in the name and not get sued? Such as, ‘Great Apple Products,’ and then open a website called GreatAppleProducts.com? When you're in the business of answering questions, like the Dear Rich Staff, you sometimes feel "used" when someone refers to "my question" and then asks four questions. So, give us a second to regroup. Actually we've written about reselling Apple products three times before: our classic post, our expanded classic post, and our "re-selling loaded iPods revised classic post. That doesn't mean we're tired of writing about the subject. So here's our take on your questions:
1. How are they allowed to sell these products for a ‘discount?’ There's no law prohibiting discounting unless a merchant has signed an agreement to fix pricing (which has to be carefully drafted to avoid antitrust laws). A merchant can even give iPods away for "free" although such offers are often considered a form of identity scam.
2. How are they allowed to advertise these products? See above. As long as the merchant doesn't break the rules set out in previous posts, the merchant can advertise the discount.
3. The last item I won from these auctions actually was shipped to me from Amazon.com. Is it possible for these auction sites to legally advertise Apple products, have an auction for them, and then purchase them from Amazon.com and simply have them shipped to the winner? 
If a merchant obtained an authorized copy by legitimate means (buying it from Amazon), the merchant is free to dispose of it any way that's legal.
4. If a person wanted to sell Apple Products that they bought from craigslist or ebay, could they start a business with ‘Apple’ in the name and not get sued -- for example ‘Great Apple Products,’ and then open a website called GreatAppleProducts.com? If you're selling applesauce and apple pie, you're probably okay with GreatAppleProducts.com, (just as the MAC cosmetic company can sell its cosmetics under a "Mac" domain name). But if you're selling Apple computer and software products under an Apple-ish domain name, you may run into opposition from Apple. Using Apple (or the name of an Apple product) in the domain name could imply that Apple is associated with or endorses your site (or that you are in some way authorized) giving the company a basis to pursue you for trademark infringement. Not saying that will definitely happen ... just sayin'.