UK High Court Ruling Requires ISPs to Block Sites Selling Counterfeit Goods

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Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must try to block sites selling counterfeit goods on the Internet, according to a UK High Court decision on Friday. The case was filed by the Richemont/Cartier group against 5 UK ISPs comprising 95 percent of UK broadband users.

This is the first ruling of its kind in the UK and somewhat controversial in that aside from providing an internet connection, ISPs have no connection to counterfeit goods or content.

The decision also forces ISPs to take on the cost of blocking content. While minimal, the ongoing burden could eventually prove more costly. The precedent the ruling sets could put ISPs at risk for more expense as similar decisions and possible lawsuits occur in the future.

The Guardian said, “Another contentious aspect of the decision is that the judge relied on the fact that ISPs had already innovated, under political pressure, to block child abuse images and institute parental controls, so had the infrastructure necessary to block counterfeit websites.”

Over the last 3 years there have been several orders issued against BSkyB, BT, EE, TalkTalk, and VirginMedia in accordance with section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to block sites selling counterfeit versions of Richemont/Cartier group goods.

Use of the Internet to traffic counterfeit goods is a global problem. “A study published in 2008 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) entitled The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting and Piracy estimated that the value of counterfeited and pirated goods moving through international trade alone in 2005 amounted to up to US$200 billion,” according to the court document. “In 2011 Frontier Economics Ltd published a report entitled Estimating the Global Economic and Social Impacts of Counterfeiting and Piracy which estimated that the value of internationally traded counterfeit and pirated goods would increase to US$960 billion by 2015.”

In the EU, the UK seized more counterfeit articles than any other member of the union. A European Commission report noted that the top 6 categories of seized goods were most likely to have been ordered on the Internet.

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