Tuesday, May 22, 2012
This is the first in a series of articles on remedies considered for online counterfeiting and piracy, in light of the dismantling of the proposals set forth in the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from earlier this year. For more on PIPA and SOPA, please see the prior posts on these topics.
The purpose of these articles is to explore potential ways to combat online counterfeiting and piracy, and in particular the type of counterfeiting and piracy that occurs overseas, but is directed at a U.S.-based audience. The most notable example in recent months is Megaupload, which has been taken down in a cooperative effort of seven countries. (For more on the Megaupload take-down, visit The Guardian (UK)'s Megaupload Page and the US Department of Justice's news release announcing the indictment. For more about the U.S. Immigrations and Customs enforcement take-downs, see ICE's news releases about its intellectual property enforcement efforts.)
However, cooperative effort across borders is only possible with countries that share the U.S.'s protection of intellectual property rights. Not all countries do. So, what are trademark and copyright owners to do to protect their IP rights in the online world, where geographic borders mean very little?
This series will examine enforcement efforts in other countries as an illustration of possible enforcement mechanisms that might be available, depending on how new legislation on this topic might be written.
Danish Maritime & Commercial Court Decision
A few days ago, Norsker & Co. (a Danish law firm) posted an article about a recent case, Hublot SA Geneve v. Bronsztejin in the Maritime and Commercial Court (May 3, 2012). According to the article, Danish purchasers ordered counterfeit Hublot watches from a Chinese online service. They paid Dkr$2,250 (USD $2,664.41) for these five watches. When the watches arrived at Danish customs, they were seized, pending proof that they had been purchased for private use. The purchasers did not provide such proof and the counterfeits were destroyed.
The court then punished the purchasers of these counterfeit watches, by assessing monetary fines and destroying the counterfeit watches. There does not appear to be any action taken against the sellers or any other entities in the distribution chain. The purchasers were required to pay the Danish Customs Office's cost to destroy the counterfeit goods (Dkr2,500 = USD $438.34), damages for the trademark violation (presumably paid to the trademark holder) in the amount of Dkr5,000 (USD $ 859.49) and "costs" (presumably the court costs) in the amount of Dkr15,500 (USD $ 2,664.41). (Currency converter used here was accessed on May 22, 2012).
As a result, it appears that in Denmark, the courts have chosen to punish the purchasers of the counterfeit goods, and not the intermediaries in the distribution chain. The summary did not mention any other defendants – such as the payment processor who processed the credit card payment, or the shipping service that carried the goods across borders.
The articles to follow in this series will consider enforcement mechanisms imposed in other countries – and perhaps competing types of enforcement within the same jurisdiction – to see what other enforcement possibilities have been considered. Please note that I take no position on the effectiveness or fairness of any of these measures, but instead am collecting a laundry list of possible sanctions and targets of those sanctions for research purposes.