High Court Orders ISPs to Block Counterfeiting Websites

In a landmark ruling handed down this morning the High Court has ordered several of the UK's leading ISPs to block websites dealing in counterfeit products. The decision follows legal action by Richemont, the owner of several luxury brands including Cartier and Montblanc.

Following successful action by the world’s leading entertainment companies to have file-sharing sites blocked at the ISP level, it was perhaps inevitable that other companies with similar issues would tread the same path.

Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. owns several well-known luxury brands including Cartier and Mont Blanc and for some time has tried to force sites selling counterfeit products to close down. Faced with poor results, in 2014 the company wrote to the UK’s leading ISPs – Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media, EE and Telefonica/O2 – complaining that third party sites were infringing on Richemont trademarks.

Concerned that Richemont hadn’t done enough to close the sites down on its own and that blocking could affect legitimate trade, the ISPs resisted and the matter found itself before the High Court.

This morning a decision was handed down and it’s good news for Richemont. The ISPs named in the legal action must now restrict access to websites selling physical counterfeits in the same way they already restrict file-sharing sites.

The websites mentioned in the current order are cartierloveonline.com, hotcartierwatch.com, iwcwatchtop.com, replicawatchesiwc.com, 1iwc.com, montblancpensonlineuk.com, ukmontblancoutlet.co.uk . In addition, Richemont identified tens of thousands of additional domains that could be added in the future.

A Richemont spokesperson told TorrentFreak that the ruling represents a positive step in the fight to protect brands and customers from the sale of counterfeit goods online.

“We are pleased by this judgment and welcome the Court’s recognition that there is a public interest in preventing trade mark infringement, particularly where counterfeit goods are involved. The Courts had already granted orders requiring ISPs to block sites for infringement of copyright in relation to pirated content. This decision is a logical extension of that principle to trade marks,” the company said.

Wiggin LLP, the lawfirm at the heart of website blocking action for the entertainment industry, acted for Richemont in the case. The company says that today’s judgment holds benefits for both rightsholders and consumers.

“In a comprehensive judgment, the court has considered the enforcement methods that are presently available to trade mark owners when tackling infringement online. The court has concluded that Internet Service Providers play ‘an essential role’ and that the court can and should apply Article 11 of the Enforcement Directive to require the application of technical measures to impede infringement of trade marks,” Wiggin said.

According to a comment sent to TF by Arty Rajendra, Partner at IP law firm Rouse Legal, the decision is likely to be appealed.

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