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Google and Facebook ordered by US court to remove counterfeit sites

On 30 November 2011 a court in Nevada ordered that Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter remove the domain names of over 600 websites selling counterfeit Chanel items from their search results.

The judgment is wide ranging and broad, ordering a number of the "big players" of the internet arena to take steps so that the web addresses of over 600 firms do not appear in any results of searches carried out by users.

The judgment represents the ever-increasing stance of the US court to protect the intellectual property of companies on the internet. It is not just in the US where court decisions have favoured rights owners. In the L'Oreal v Ebay case, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Ebay should take a more proactive approach to protect against the sale of counterfeit goods on its website.

The effect of the US order is yet to be seen, arguably the US court has limited jurisdiction with regards to websites registered outside the US, meaning the actual effect of the order could be substantially limited if the relevant websites are registered outside the US. Fresh action would be needed in the relevant jurisdictions in order to enforce the order. This is furthered by the uncertainty about whether another jurisdiction would find in the same way as the US court.

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This case is another 'win' for rights owners, though US lawyers have warned it could be challenged. Cases such as this suggest a shift towards protecting intellectual property despite the impact this has on Internet Service Providers, search engines and other 'high-use' sites on the internet. What action Google and the other affect parties will take in response to this judgment remains to be seen.

For further information, please contact Jill Bainbridge, head of Blake Lapthorn solicitors' Intellectual Property team on 023 8085 7160 or email jill.bainbridge@bllaw.co.uk.

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