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Unrequested EmailsSpamming with Rolex, Breitling and Omega

Every internet user has experienced them: Spam emails, with offers of counterfeit brand watches by Rolex, Breitling or Omega. Not only the time involved in the deletion of these unwanted emails is annoying, but the danger of being fooled by the special offers is great. Many incoming spam emails contain offers for apparently genuine watches.

In particular, famous watch manufacturers like Rolex, Breitling or Omega are concerned with the misuse of their names and brands. Either the watch on offer is sold as genuine, or as a complete counterfeit copy. In addition, in order to attract buyers, a picture of the watch concerned is used in most cases. Potential buyers should never be lured in with advertising slogans such as "a Rolex was never this cheap" or "No difference to the original".

The biggest problem for the legal pursuit of spam emails is that most of the email addresses and servers are based abroad. Therefore, the sources of such emails are usually very difficult to investigate.

Since 2007, the German Telemedia Act (TMG) regulates the legal assessment process as to whether a spam email requires legal action against it, and which penalties may apply in case of a liability. Undesirable advertising emails are defined in §6 paragraph 2 TMG as follows: "If commercial communications are dispatched by electronic post, neither the sender nor the commercial character of the message may be veiled in the headline or reference line, or be concealed. Veiling or concealing is defined as when the headline or reference line are so intentionally formed that the receiver receives either none or delusory information regarding the actual identity of the sender or the commercial character of the message before inspection of the contents of the communication."

Those who prefer not to abide by these regulations, or only partially, are legally culpable of dispatching a spam email. A breach of this law is punishable with a fine of up to 50,000 Euros. This punishment will not, however, keep the spammers from dispatching their advertising emails. Even sterner sentences are available to the courts when it concerns a legal claim by a company whose protected concepts and product images have been misused. The law provides for the protection of trademarks and brands, and compensation claims made against abusers of these rights are often on the heavy side.

The private individuals who receive unsolicited email advertisements, for example, watch spam, are basically entitled to instigate a civil law suit. If the court decides to pass an injunction on the spammer, the sending of these spam emails should cease. One basic concern is the possibility that the spammer may be a repeat offender. This is, in fact, the standard scenario with regard to advertising emails, regardless of the fact that sending even one unsolicited advertising email can form the basis of such a claim. All in all, the problem of the complicated legal pursuit of the mail source is the biggest obstacle to a succesful outcome.

In spite of strict legal sanction options, it is very difficult in practice to prevent the transmission of advertising emails, and often the only safeguard is the application of technical protection measures. So-called spam filters are most effective. All internet users should pay attention to the careful handling of their email addresses. Most spammers procure their email addresses in an automated procedure from web pages, Blogs or forums. It is recommended never to provide mail addresses in the original. If one substitutes the "@" sign in an address, for example, with "name blank @ blank" or with "At", the email address is no longer recognised as such.