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In a "landmark" ruling, internet service providers can now be ordered to block counterfeit websites
In a "landmark" ruling, internet service providers can now be ordered to block counterfeit websites

‘Landmark’ ruling blocks fake jewellery websites

International luxury group Richemont has won a court order that will require internet service providers to block access to websites that sell counterfeit jewellery and watches.

The High Court in London recently ruled in favour of the Swiss-based conglomerate – which owns high-end jewellery brands Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels – in what has been described as a “landmark” case in trademark infringement.

The judgement ruled that the five main internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK must “block, or at least impede, access” to a number of websites that Richemont had identified as selling counterfeit products under its brand names. 

One of these websites included, which incorporated a header using Cartier’s trademark logo and offered replica products such as one similar to the Cartier Love Bracelet at “apparently” discounted prices.

Justice Sir Richard Arnold explained that there were four ways in which counterfeit goods were damaging to trademark owners: the owner could lose sales; their reputation could be damaged due to the substandard quality of the replicated product; the perceived value of an “exclusive” product could be eroded by the prevalence of counterfeits in the market; and there could also be a negative effect on consumer confidence in the legitimate market for such goods.

The ISPs argued that the current costs of blocking websites against copyright infringement were already high, and that these costs would become substantially greater if the court allowed orders to be made for trademark infringement as well.

However, Arnold stated that the costs could be passed on to the ISPs’ customers, adding that this should not affect their competitiveness, as all five companies would be required to take the same measures.

A new fight against trademark infringement
While there had been similar cases in the past, Arnold said that the current ruling was unique in that it was possibly the first to combat trademark infringement rather than copyright infringement.

“It is a test case, which, if successful, is likely to be followed by other applications by Richemont and other trademark owners, both here and in other countries,” Arnold stated in his judgement.

In a statement issued to Jeweller, Richemont said the case represented a positive step in the fight to protect brands and customers from the sale of counterfeit goods online.

“We are pleased by this judgment and welcome the court’s recognition that there is a public interest in preventing trademark infringement, particularly where counterfeit goods are involved,” Richemont commented.

“The courts had already granted orders requiring ISPs to block sites for infringement of copyright in relation to pirated content. This decision is a logical extension of that principle to trademarks.”

In a separate press release, Wiggin, the legal advisor that represented Richemont, added, “The benefit, however, accrues not only to Richemont and other trademark owners but also to consumers in the UK and the European Union.

“The court has carefully weighed all the factors in making its decision and has concluded that there is a clear public interest in preventing the sale of counterfeit goods online. We expect this decision to have an impact well beyond the UK.”

The Richemont case is another win in the jewellery and watch industry’s long war against counterfeit websites.

In 2012, Jeweller reported that a joint operation between the US Government and the European police had resulted in the closure of 132 fraudulent websites claiming to sell genuine high-end jewellery. In the same year, Rolex took legal action against a watch retailer that was using counterfeit parts in the restoration of its watches.

The battle is also present on home soil; in 2010, Jeweller discovered that Australian-based websites were openly selling counterfeit watches and jewellery from well-known brands under the guise of “replicas”. At the time, Sydney-based watchmaker Nicholas Hacko challenged one of these websites and published the details of his phone conversation with the company.

More reading
Aussie website cash in on counterfeits
Watch dealer challenges counterfeit seller
Scam jewellery websites shut down
Rolex and Winston defend their brands
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