Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reselling Apple Products

Dear Rich: I have a question. Am I allowed to sell Apple computers without being an authorized dealer? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is, "Yes."
You can re-sell Apple products (and advertise that you do so) as long as you 1) don't mislead consumers into believing that you are an authorized dealer or agent of Apple, 2) don't modify the Apple logo, and 3) don't replace the Apple-authorized parts with third-party parts. For example, a few years ago, a company was prevented from reselling Rolex watches after it swapped out watch parts but kept the Rolex faceplate.
Apple has strict standards for its resellers and it warns consumers who purchase from non-authorized resellers. Still, Apple cannot prohibit someone who legitmately acquires branded versions of its products from reselling them.This principle is referred to as the first-sale doctrine (or  trademark exhaustion). Simply put, a reseller who offers branded goods without modifying those goods does not need authorization and is not an infringer. According to the the Dear Rich staff, things may get a little more confusing if you are selling parallel imports (also known as gray market goods). These are Apple products manufactured for sale in territories outside the U.S. and imported and sold in the U.S. (or vice versa). Apple would have a better argument stopping the sale of gray market iPods or Macs, particularly if the imported models do not have all the features or service benefits of their U.S. counterparts. Apple would also have an easier time stopping gray market sales in some European countries which do not have similar first-sale rules.