Forget the Corners of Canal Street!

By Jaiana Casanova 

Reviewed by Kyu Hee Chu

Who says that you can only find counterfeits on Canal Street? The internet is taking over the sale of counterfeit goods, and luxury brands are no strangers to this situation.

Just recently Chanel filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement and cyber piracy against 399 websites, joining names like Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton who in the last few months have filed suits against hundreds of online retailers of counterfeit goods.

The suit was filed in Las Vegas against unnamed website operators in several jurisdictions like China and the Bahamas, seeking an injunction to stop these websites from selling counterfeit goods bearing the Chanel logo, namely handbags, wallets, jewelry, and shoes, among others. In addition, it seeks to disable and/or transfer these domains names to Chanel.

The complaint also states the fact that they use the brand names themselves as part of their domain names and use keywords in order to appear in the top search engines like Google, which infringes on their good will and name.

Most of these website operators are unknown. However, Chanel was able to serve them with legal notice thanks to a federal court decision of August 2010, which allowed plaintiffs in a trademark infringement and counterfeit prosecution case to proceed with service over email. This decision was made after the contact information indicated in the websites was deemed false.

This is a definite change in approach on behalf of the luxury houses, which are now focusing their attention on the websites themselves, and not on search engines following Tiffany’s experience against Google in the Second Circuit.

No doubt these famous luxury brands are not stopping at Canal Street when it comes to protecting their trademark. This is just another example  of their determination that they will not allow even the internet to interfere. Furthermore, this is a continuation of the work carried out by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has been seizing websites pertaining to the sale of counterfeit goods, mostly luxury brands, in the last few years.

We shall have to wait and see for the outcome of these cases, and the enforceability of these court rulings, given the complexity of the laws, or lack thereof, that regulate cyberspace.

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