Louis Vuitton Sets A New Standard In Federal Trademark And Copyright Law

In the recent landmark case of Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Akanoc Solutions, Inc., 658 F.3d 936 (9th Cir. 2011), the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a web-hosting company that owned and operated servers was liable for contributory copyright and trademark infringement when it failed to take steps to curtail alleged infringement committed by Chinese websites that used its servers. Louis Vuitton sued Akanoc Solutions, Inc. (“Akanoc”), Managed Solutions Group, Inc. (“MSG”), and Steven Chen (the owner of both companies) for contributory copyright and trademark infringement under the Copyright and Lanham Acts, respectively. MSG leased servers, bandwidth, and IP addresses to other companies, such as Akanoc, who then operated the servers and otherwise ran the business. Louis Vuitton alleged that some of Akanoc’s China-based customers directly infringed on Louis Vuitton’s trademarks and copyrights. Louis Vuitton sent the defendants eighteen Notices of Infringement documenting the infringements occurring on websites hosted by defendants, yet the defendants were unable to identify any action taken in response to the notices sent by Louis Vuitton and the websites continued to operate. Louis Vuitton alleged that defendants had actual knowledge of the website's activities, that defendants knowingly avoided learning of the full extent of infringing activities, and that defendants knowingly enabled the infringing conduct by hosting the websites and permitting them to display the counterfeit products.

A jury found that all three defendants were liable for willful contributory trademark infringement and willful copyright infringement. It awarded statutory damages on both claims for each of the three defendants. The trial court set aside the verdict as to MSG because there was no evidence that MSG did anything other than own and lease the hardware operated by Akanoc and Chen. However, it entered judgment against Chen and Akanoc and awarded statutory damages against each of them.

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