Fashion Law: Hermès Won Its $100M Lawsuit Because Courts Recognize Electronic Service Of Process
In this Fashion Law & Business of Fashion column, we are bringing attention to technological advancements in serving summons and complaints (also known as service of process) to website operators, online infringers, and other websites that sell counterfeit fashion goods.
The global fashion powerhouse, Hermès, won an award against domain name infringers and other alleged counterfeiters in 2012 because the Federal District Court in New York permitted Hermes to serve the complaint and summons on the defendants via electronic means, as long as proof of email receipt, content and time received could be provided.
Hermès then served the defendants, operators of 34 websites selling counterfeit Hermès goods, using the same electronic service of process. The Court’s blessing of an electronic service of process method is critically important to our digital world because often only an email address or domain address identifies perpetrators of online crimes. Traditionally, in many states, service of process (the complaint and summons) had to be effectuated by hand delivery. Clearly hand delivery is nearly impossible, inconvenient, expensive, and inefficient when the defendants are often anonymous and the whereabouts unascertainable in the world wide web. In the right circumstances, serving by email is particularly useful in trademark, copyright and patent infringement cases, or cases concerning e-commerce/online activities, where the plaintiff may only be able to obtain contact information from domain registries or hosting providers.
Hermes’ victory of an $100 million judgment against the counterfeiters via the electronic service of process is a victory for all brands because online counterfeiters may no longer be able to hide behind their domain name.
Image via Hermes