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Fined €500 for selling counterfeit Nokia phone covers

Court orders destruction of counterfeit goods

The owner of a Gżira store was fined €500 after being declared guilty by a magistrate's court of selling counterfeit Nokia phone covers which he had allegedly purchased from a trader who was not his regular supplier.

Back in 2005, police had received a complaint by Nokia Corporation who alleged that Stephen Ritchie, owner of the Gżira telephony shop, was selling counterfeit Nokia merchandise. A police search at the store yielded some 24 mobile phone covers.

The shop owner was subsequently charged with having breached the Trademarks Act, with having knowingly sold counterfeit products, with having received stolen goods and with being a relapser.

During the proceedings, the accused had strongly denied the allegations insisting that he had purchased the covers from a trader by the name of Eyad Abu Hishmeh who had issued a receipt for “mobile phone accessories” in the amount of Lm396.

Although this receipt was exhibited, the court, presided over by Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia, remarked that the document did not specify the nature and number of the accessories. Moreover, although the accused had declared that he had only dealt with the trader once, he had not demanded any certificates attesting the authenticity of the goods.

The defence had objected to the report drawn up by court-appointed expert Martin Bajada, pointing out that the latter had faced a conviction relating to forgery before the UK Courts. However, the court waived aside this objection commenting that the “past private life” of the expert cast no doubt upon the probatory value of his report.

Writing about his findings, the expert had declared that “none of the mobile covers examined are in conformity with the quality and packing of original Nokia products which are superior in both quality and packing when compared with the item exhibited.”

The court observed that such findings constituted “a statement of fact” against which the accused had not put forward any counter-evidence. Nor had the accused convinced the court that he was genuinely unaware of the fake quality of the covers when he purchased them from a trader with whom he had never done business before.

He had not even questioned whether the seller was an authorised agent, in spite of the fact that the receipt he was given was not itemised, the seller was not a familiar Nokia agent and the packaging bore no distinctive identification.

The court declared the shop owner guilty of knowingly selling fake merchandise and breaching trademark laws clearing him the other charges. The accused was ordered to pay a €500 fine and an additional €212.40 representing court expert expenses. The court also ordered the destruction of the counterfeit goods.

Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha were defence counsel.

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