Cartier International, the luxury watch and jewellery company, is attempting to block websites allegedly selling counterfeit goods in a test case that could have far-reaching consequences for the internet.
Lawyers for the Paris-based company launched their claim at the high court in London on Thursday. It is believed to be the first time online service providers have been asked to close down websites on the grounds that they feature pirated trademark logos.
The case against BSkyB, BT, TalkTalk and other firms raises concerns about the impact on online businesses and possible restrictions on freedom of speech. The Open Rights Group (ORG), a digital campaign organisation, has intervened in the brand protection action.
ORG’s legal director, Elizabeth Knight, said: “As the court is being asked to extend the circumstances in which blocking orders are granted, it’s vital that the wider public interest is taken into account. We hope that our intervention will help ensure that future claimants cannot use blocking orders to restrict legitimate activity or free speech.”
David Allen Green, a lawyer at Preiskel & Co which is acting for ORG, said: “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.
“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.”
The judge, Mr Justice Arnold, has asked for submissions on how the rights of legitimate internet users would be affected by injunctions against counterfeiters. Cartier International, which established its reputation in the 19th century by crafting tiaras and necklaces for royalty, declined to comment on the case.
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