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It is well known that counterfeit copies of leading brands are fairly commonplace, especially in online shops. Many will also know that Internet service providers can be required to deny access to websites which are found to be dealing in 'knock-off' goods.
However, a recent decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) may have extended this principle, bringing landlords into the spotlight if one of their tenants supplies goods which infringe trade mark rights.
The case involved a market in Prague in which fake copies of designer goods were being sold. The proprietors of various brands whose trade marks were being infringed by the stallholders in the market applied to the Czech court to obtain an injunction forcing the landlords of the market to cease renting pitches to traders who infringed their intellectual property rights.
The landlords contested the application, arguing that the relevant EU Directive, which allows an injunction to be sought against an 'intermediary' whose services are used by a third party to facilitate the infringement of copyright, did not apply to a landlord.
The Czech court sought guidance from the CJEU, which ruled that an 'intermediary' could equally well be the provider of the physical location at which the infringing activity is carried out.
The potential implications for landlords who allow their tenants to undertake activities which breach the intellectual property rights of others are clear.