UK Supreme Court sides with ISPs in website blocking costs case

The UK Supreme Court has handed down its decision in the Cartier website blocking case, ruling that brand owners should indemnify internet service providers (ISPs) for the costs of implementing blocking injunctions.

The appeal related to a previous application lodged by Cartier (among others), which sought injunctions requiring a number of ISPs to block access to specified websites that were advertising and selling counterfeit goods. The judge granted the injunction and ordered the ISPs to pay the costs, including those for implementing the website blocking order. The Court of Appeal subsequently dismissed an attempt to overturn the ruling and an appeal was made to the Supreme Court, which related only to the question of whether the respondents should have been required to bear the various costs of implementing the blocking order.

In Cartier International AG v British Telecommunications Plc ((2018) UKSC 28) the Supreme Court ruled that ISPs should be indemnified for the disputed implementation costs.

The Supreme Court stated that the ISPs were “legally innocent” of any infringement and were acting as “mere conduits”. Therefore, while different conditions may apply to those engaging in caching or hosting (which involve greater participation in the infringement and which are more likely to infringe national IP laws if safe harbour immunity is unavailable), the court found that the intermediaries should not be required to pay when assisting the person wronged.

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