Jun 16, 2015

EU Parliament Seeks United Approach to Online Counterfeit Goods

Most readers will be familiar with the 'too good to be true' offers available on some online selling platforms (think Ebay, Amazon, Alibaba et al) that make you consider whether the goods on offer are genuine or counterfeit.  Such instances may often be resolved by the logic that this is a reputable online retail platform and so it would be unlikely that the goods on display are counterfeit.  However, appearances can be deceptive...

The present law in relation to online platforms is that they are not typically liable for materials that infringe a third party's intellectual property rights so long as they did not create the infringing item and they act only as an intermediary between the seller and buyer.  The obligations of online selling platforms to third parties generally tend to arise where they have 'actual knowledge' of the illegal activity but do nothing to prevent it.  To avoid liability it will be a defence to act expeditiously to remove or prevent access to the infringing products.

In an effort to tackle this problem and to make online platforms more accountable for hosting counterfeit goods, the European Parliament has called for a comprehensive legal framework to be developed to combat intellectual property infringement.

A key element of the new legislation would require all "online actors" in the supply chain to have a role in the fight against intellectual property rights infringement and to involve market place owners in all efforts to enforce intellectual property rights including efforts to remove counterfeit goods and ban sellers of counterfeit goods from their sites.

Whilst such provisions are good news for consumer and the general public who would have greater confidence in the eminence of goods purchased, the process of verifying the origin and quality of goods and products will impose a more onerous standard on online platform operators with regard to cost and man power which will ultimately impact on profit.  In addition, it may affect the ability to effect take down notices as an online platform operator that has taken time, effort and money to ensure that the goods are not counterfeit may be more resistant to withdrawing access to those same products.

in: Companies, Consumer Law, Digital/Tech, News

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