Cartier was one of the groups taking action
Online sales of counterfeit jewellery, watches and other luxury goods over certain websites will be blocked by Britain’s largest internet service providers, following a High Court victory concerning the use of trademarked goods.
Sky, BT, EE, TalkTalk and Virgin Media will be asked “to block or at least impede” access to six websites accused of selling counterfeit goods online. All of the sites are based outside the UK, with some run out of China.
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The case was brought by Cartier International, Montblanc-Simplo and Richemont International – all subsidiaries of Compagnie Financière Richemont – which own a stable of trademarked luxury brands.
The decision is the first time that a block has been ordered in the UK based on trademark infringement, rather than copyright infringement.
Over the past three years, rights owners have had the ability to block injunctions against ISPs in cases where sites were infringing copyright of digital content, such as music and films.
The decision could be followed by trademark owners both in the UK and other countries, given the internet is an increasingly large channel for trade in counterfeit goods.
Simon Baggs, partner at Wiggin, the law firm which represented Richemont, said: “The court has carefully weighed all the factors in making its decision and has concluded that there is a clear public interest in preventing the sale of counterfeit goods online. We expect this decision to have an impact well beyond the UK.”
This year the EU said that more than 39.9m articles, representing a market value of almost €900m, were seized by customs authorities in 2012. The UK seizes more articles than any other European member state.
Chancery Division judge Mr Justice Arnold found that the exclusivity of the luxury brands was an important aspect of the image. Richemont showed evidence that all articles purchased through the websites were both counterfeit and of significantly lower quality than the genuine articles.
The judge found that the “ISPs have an essential role in these infringements, since it is via the ISPs’ services that the advertisements and offers for sale are communicated to 95 per cent of broadband users in the UK”.
The ISPs had argued against the move by saying that Richemont had not itself done enough to close the sites down. They warned that there was a risk that blocking would result in legitimate traders and users being adversely affected.
A statement on behalf of BSkyB, BT, EE, TalkTalk and Virgin Media said: “We are currently considering the judgment and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”
Arty Rajendra, partner at law firm Rouse Legal, said: “This is a serious blow to counterfeiters. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to shut down websites selling counterfeit products – often to unsuspecting customers. The internet provides these vendors anonymity and the ability to mask their location.”
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