Online marketplaces are a boon for counterfeiters. In China, for example, handbags with pirated designs and phony Western-sounding brand names have become commonplace.
But one of the most intractable problems for luxury goods companies remains the ease with which counterfeiters can create new seller “identities,” allowing them to stay one step ahead of policing efforts.
Now Cartier International, jeweler to kings and queens, is fighting back, in a legal dispute with potentially far-reaching implications. The maker of high-end watches and diamond baubles filed suit in London on Thursday to shut down websites, such as TalkTalk and BSkyB, selling Cartier counterfeits, even if the sites had made a good faith effort to root out suspicious sellers.
Free speech advocates were quick to respond; Open Rights Group, a digital right organization, is leading the charge. “Nobody sensible wants to give comfort or support to counterfeiters. But it is not difficult to see the problems which such injunctions may cause to other people using the internet,” David Allen Green, a lawyer representing ORG, told the Guardian. “For example, a whole website could be blocked just because of the activities of a few sellers. Or a rights holder may threaten to apply for an injunction on the pretext of an alleged infringement when all that is happening is unwelcome consumer criticism or parody.”
As recently as a few months ago, Cartier’s prospects for success would have seemed bleak, if not hopeless. But with European courts now open to curtailing speech, in cases where material private interests are at stake, those prospects are looking slightly brighter.
[H/T The Guardian]