Combatting advertising that supports the sale of counterfeit goods

July 2018

A voluntary memorandum of understanding (“MoU”) comes into effect today which will attempt to try and minimise the placement of advertising on websites and mobile phone applications that infringe copyright or disseminate counterfeit goods.  

Online advertising is a major source of income for IPR-infringing websites. The misplacement of ads is an important problem, with brands themselves often unaware of where their ads are ending up.   The MoU has been facilitated by the EU Commission and the parties that are signatories include advertisers, advertising agencies, trading desks, advertising platforms, advertising networks, advertising exchanges for publishers, sales houses, publishers and intellectual property owners, as well as representatives and associations of these groups.

The key provisions are as follows:-

  1. It includes a commitment not only to minimise the placement of advertising on infringing websites and apps, but also to remove advertising if the advertiser (or those who place advertising for others) becomes aware that it is on a website or app which is selling counterfeit goods or goods which infringe copyright; and
  2. Those signatories who are directly involved in buying, selling or brokering the sale of purchase of advertising space agree to include provisions in their contracts with advertisers and other media buyers to ensure that ads are not placed on inappropriate websites and apps.

The signatories will meet at the end of a 12 month assessment period to evaluate the effectiveness of the MoU. Online advertising is a major source of income for websites which promote counterfeit goods. The presence of advertisements for genuine household brands on infringing websites can often lead consumers to mistakenly believe that the website itself is selling genuine goods when they are not. More details about the MoU can be found here https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/intellectual-property/enforcement/memorandum-of-understanding-online-advertising-ipr_en and it will be interesting to see over the next 12 months whether this does have any practical effect in reducing the placement of advertising on websites and mobile applications that infringe intellectual property rights.

This update was prepared by HGF Legal Director Tom Nener. If you would like further advice on this or any other matter please contact Tom or your usual HGF representative, alternatively visit our Contact Page to get in touch with your nearest HGF office.