Intermediary Liability and Trademark Infringement: Proliferation of Filter Obligations in Civil Law Jurisdictions?
Published in: Giancarlo F. Frosio (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Online Intermediary Liability, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2020, 381-403
23 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2021
Date Written: June 24, 2019
The erosion of the safe harbour for hosting in the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (CDSM Directive) leads to a remarkable climate change in the field of EU copyright law and the civil law jurisdictions of continental EU Member States. Inevitably, it raises the question of potential repercussions on the safe harbour for hosting and filtering standards in trademark cases. Even though online marketplaces are explicitly exempted from the new copyright rules and the CDSM Directive is not intended to neutralize the safe harbour for hosting in trademark cases, the adoption of a more restrictive approach in copyright law may quicken the appetite of trademark proprietors for similar measures in trademark law.
The extension of the new copyright approach to trademark cases, however, is unlikely to yield satisfactory results. Due to the different conceptual contours of trademark rights, a system mimicking the filtering obligations following from the CDSM Directive would give trademark proprietors excessive control over the use of their trademarks in the digital environment. Such an overbroad system of automated, algorithmic filtering would encroach upon the fundamental guarantee of freedom of expression and freedom of competition. It is likely to have a chilling effect on legitimate descriptive use of trademarks, comparative advertising, advertising by resellers, information about alternative offers in the marketplace, and use criticizing or commenting upon trademarked products.
As a result, consumers would receive less diverse information on goods and services and the free movement of goods and services in the internal market would be curtailed. The reliability of the internet as an independent source of trademark-related information would be put at risk. The analysis, thus, leads to the insight that a proliferation of the new filtering obligations in copyright law is undesirable and should be avoided.
Keywords: algorithmic enforcement, content moderation, filtering obligations, free movement of goods and services, freedom of competition, freedom of commercial expression, parallel imports, exhaustion of trademark rights, descriptive use, platform economy, market transparency, confusion, dilution
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation