THE LAW

 

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Title 15 of the United States Code, Sections 291-300

Title 15 – Commerce and Trade

Chapter 8 – Falsely Stamped Gold or Silver or Goods Manufactured There from

 

“National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906”
aka “Jewelers’ Liability Act (Gold and Silver Articles)”
including the “Gold Labeling Act of 1976”

Current as of January 5, 1999

Contents of this AIS U.S. Code File

 

 

 

 

 


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Introduction – Background and Chronology

Sections 291-293 of Chapter 8, which became law on February 21, 1905, only included the first three sections making stamping with words like “United States assay”, etc., unlawful and providing for forfeiture of related goods and for criminal penalties of a fine, imprisonment or both.Sections 294-300, which added the gold and silver quality mark tolerances, were added on June 13, 1906, effective for articles manufactured and labeled as of June 13, 1907. Those sections make up the “National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906” (NGSSA) which is also officially known as the “Jewelers’ Liability Act (Gold and Silver Articles)” (JLA).

1961 amendments requiring trademark stamping after June 1962;stamped as of June 13, 1907. Those sections encompass the

Amendments of October 1, 1976 tightened quality mark labeling to the tolerances of the “plumb gold” standard effective October 1, 1981, and provided for these sections to also be known as the “Gold Labeling Act of 1976.”

Some might consider this law a bit of a hodgepodge with the way positions were chosen for some of the most important amendments. For example, Sec. 297, “Stamping plated articles” is where the identifying trademark requirement is found even though such a mark is required on all gold and silver articles which are labeled for “quality.” Additionally, paragraph (a) of that section, “Words `sterling’ or `coin’ forbidden” is where we find the law regarding the labeling of gold or silver plated or filled items. Hopefully the plain English summary we’ve included below will be helpful in navigating the requirements of this most important and often misunderstood law.

It is also important to stay mindful of a few critical points on which there is sometimes differing legal opinion but in any event areas on which there are many misconceptions in the trade. Those would be:

  • “Stamping” is not restricted to an actual stamping of a quality mark on an item but rather also includes any manner of labeling on which quality claims are made.
  • “Trademarks” required under this federal law appear to have as their goal the ability to identify whoever it is that placed the quality mark on related articles. Please note that the law in Sec. 297(b) also allows for the “name of such person” as an apparent alternative to a mark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). This latter provision might conflict with some state laws which do not provide a similar alternative.

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Plain English Summary of Sections 294-300, the NGSSA of 1906

Unlawful Acts– It is illegal for any dealer of gold or silver jewelry or gold ware, silver goods or silverware, to do any of the following with any articles of gold or silver which are stamped or labeled in any manner, on or accompanying the article, with markings which do not meet the requirements of this law:

  • Import or export such article from or to the United States for the purpose of selling or disposing of it.
  • Deposit such article in the United States mails, deliver it to any common carrier for transportation, or otherwise transport it from one State, Territory, or possession of the United States, or the District of Columbia, to any other State, Territory, or possession of the United States, or to said District, in interstate commerce.

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“Article” Defined – means any goods, wares, works of art, commodity, or other thing which may be lawfully kept or offered for sale, so the “Jewelers’ Liability Act” is NOT just for jewelers!

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Gold Quality– The tolerance for any quality (“fineness”) labeling of articles made of gold or it’s alloys is:

  • 3 parts in one thousand (3/1000)
  • Any testing must be done on parts which do not contain any “solder or alloy of inferior fineness used for brazing or uniting the parts.”
  • “The actual fineness of the entire quantity of gold or of its alloys contained in an article mentioned in this section, including all solder and alloy of inferior fineness used for brazing or uniting the parts of the article (all such gold, alloys, and solder being assayed as one piece),” must be:
    • Within three one-thousandth parts (3/1000), of the labeled quality for watchcases or flatware,
    • Within seven one-thousandth parts (7/1000), of the labeled quality for other articles

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Silver Quality– The tolerance for any quality (“fineness”) labeling of articles made of silver or it’s alloys is:

  • 4 parts in one thousand (4/1000)
  • Articles marked or labeled “Sterling” or “Sterling Silver” must be at least nine hundred and twenty-five one-thousandth parts pure silver (925/1000 or 92.5%)
  • Articles marked or labeled “Coin” or “Coin Silver” must be at least nine hundred one-thousandth parts pure silver (900/1000 or 90.0%)
  • Any testing must be done on parts which do not contain any “solder or alloy of inferior fineness used for brazing or uniting the parts.”
  • “The actual fineness of the entire quantity of silver or of its alloys contained in such article, including all solder and alloy of inferior fineness used for brazing or uniting the parts of such article (all such silver, alloys, and solder being assayed as one piece),” must be:
    • Within ten one-thousandth parts (10/1000) of the labeled quality

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Plated and Filled Items– Articles which are rolled gold plate, gold plate, gold filled, silver plate, or gold or silver electroplate, or any similar articles can not be stamped or labeled in any manner with:

  • “any word or mark usually employed to indicate the fineness of gold, unless such word or mark be accompanied by other words, plainly indicating that such article or part thereof is made of rolled gold plate, gold plate, or gold electroplate, or is gold filled, as the case may be.”
  • “with the word `sterling’ or the word `coin’, either alone or in conjunction with other words or marks.”

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Articles with Components of Different Quality – If the article of merchandise is composed of two or more parts which are complete in themselves but which are not identical in quality, and any one of the parts bears a quality mark or stamp, the other part(s) must have a quality mark or stamp of like pattern and size disclosing its quality.

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Identifying Trademark on Quality Labeled Articles– An identifying mark is required whenever any person, firm, corporation, or association, being a manufacturer or dealer subject to this law:

  • “applies or causes to be applied to any article of merchandise intended for sale or customarily sold as a complete product to consumers in any State, by stamping, branding, engraving, or otherwise, any quality mark or stamp indicating or purporting to indicate that such article is made in whole or in part of gold or silver or of an alloy of either such metal” or
  • “imports into any State any such article of merchandise bearing any such quality mark or stamp which indicates or purports to indicate that such article is made in whole or in part of gold or silver or of an alloy of either such metal”
  • The identifying mark accompanying the quality labeled article must be:Each identifying trademark or name applied to any article must be applied by the same means as that used in applying the quality mark or stamp appearing on the item, in type or lettering at least as large as that used in such quality mark or stamp, and in a position as close as possible to that quality mark or stamp.
    • “a trademark of such persons, which has been duly registered or applied for registration under the laws of the United States within thirty days after an article bearing the trademark is placed in commerce or imported into the United States” or
    • “the name of such person”

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Legal Actions: Criminal Prosecution and Civil Suits

  • Violation of this law is a misdemeanor and conviction can result in a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.
  • Any competitor, customer, competitor of a customer of any person violating this law, any subsequent purchaser of an article of merchandise which has been the subject of a violation, or any duly organized and existing jewelry trade association can sue for injunctive relief restraining further violation in any district court of the United States in the district in which the defendant resides or has an agent. The amount of money in controversy does not matter, and if successful the person bringing the action can recover damages and the cost of suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.
  • Caution Against Frivolous Suits – as with consumer protection and fair trade practices laws of many states, this federal law provides that if the court determines that the action has been brought frivolously, for purposes of harassment, or in implementation of any scheme in restraint of trade, it may award punitive damages to the defendant. The law also provides that if the action is terminated without the court finding that the defendant was in violation of this law, the defendant could be awarded the cost of defending the suit, including reasonable attorney fees.

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Application of State laws

  • Many states have their own quality labeling and trademarking laws for gold, silver or platinum and some of those requirements are distinctly different than those of this law so it is important to consider and be aware of all of the laws which might be relevant to our own jurisdiction. As a general rule it is usually best to do everything in accordance with this federal law as it is the more stringent one in most cases. This is especially true as regards quality mark tolerances for gold and silver. There are however some state laws which are more stringent when it comes to the issue of trademarking requirements on quality labeled articles.
  • This federal law provides that once an article has been transported into any State, Territory, District, or possession of the United States, and remains there for use, sale, or storage, it is subject to the operation of all the laws of that jurisdiction just as though it had been produced there. The mere fact that it arrived in that jurisdiction in an original package or otherwise will not make it exempt from the laws of the jurisdiction it is now in.

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Copyright © by goldsmithtraining.com All Right Reserved.
Published on: 2006-02-22 (22589 reads)

 

 

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