By Richard Stobbe
Apparently Google does not appreciate being ordered by a Canadian court to remove worldwide search results. In Update on Injunction Against Google (Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc.) we reviewed a 2014 decision in which Google was ordered to de-index certain offending websites which were selling goods that were the subject of an intellectual property (IP) infringement claim (that decision was Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack, 2014 BCSC 1063 (CanLII)). Google appealed that decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Last week, in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., 2015 BCCA 265, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the original order.
In the underlying action, Equustek alleged that Mr. Jack and Datalink Technologies designed and sold product which infringed the IP rights of Equustek. The original lawsuit was based on trademark infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. Equustek successfully obtained injunctions prohibiting this original infringement. The infringement, however, continued through a variety of websites, and relying on search engines (such as Google) to attract customers. Equustek obtained another injunction prohibiting Google (“the world’s most popular search engine” – those are the court’s words) from delivering search results which directed customers to the offending websites.
Google appealed, arguing that this injunction was overreaching since it was beyond the Canadian court’s jurisdiction. After all, Google has no employees, business offices, or servers within British Columbia. The appeal court observed that Google’s “activities in gathering data through web crawling software, in distributing targeted advertising to users in British Columbia, and in selling advertising to British Columbia businesses are sufficient to uphold the chambers judge’s finding that it does business in the Province.” The court, therefore, was entitled to assert jurisdiction over Google even though it was not a party to the underlying litigation. Put another way, “the underlying litigation clearly has a “real and substantial connection” to British Columbia. Equally, Google’s services, which provide a link between the defendant’s products and potential customers, are substantially connected to the substance of the lawsuit.”
The court drew a parallel with a recent English case, Cartier International AG v. British Sky Broadcasting Limited,  EWHC 3354 (Ch.), where Cartier sought an injunction against a number of ISPs in the UK in order to block access to the offending websites which sold counterfeit Cartier products. The court granted the order in that case.
The B.C. court rejected a creative free-speech argument (the argument that the injunction may have the effect of stifling freedom of expression from the blocked websites). (“There is no evidence that the websites in question have ever been used for lawful purposes, nor is there any reason to believe that the domain names are in any way uniquely suitable for any sort of expression other than the marketing of the illegal product.”)
The court also gave short shrift to the argument that the injunction should be restricted to “Canadian” results from google.ca as opposed to an injunction with worldwide effect (“…an order limited to the google.ca search site would not be effective.”)
If Google successfully appeals this decision, it will undoubtedly attract even more intervenors and will provide an opportunity for Canada’s top court to clarify the law in this area.
Need assistance with intellectual property disputes and internet law? Get advice from experienced counsel.
Calgary – 07:00 MDTNo comments