Internet Law

The internet, like all other fields of human activity, is subject to law. However, the internet is also borderless and this poses significant challenges for courts.

Courts will act against illegal activity on the internet. And, in the right circumstances, courts will grant global orders if a local order will not be enough to address the problem.

We were counsel on Google v. Equustek in the Supreme Court of Canada, one of the leading cases in the world on these issues.

Our clients operated a small engineering technology business, and they retained us to stop their former distributor from manufacturing a copycat product made with stolen trade secrets. We obtained multiple court orders against the distributors ordering them to stop, but the distributors fled the jurisdiction and continued selling their illegal product on the internet, from an unknown location.

The court issued a warrant for the distributor’s arrest but there was nothing further we could do to make them stop selling.

We decided to ask Google for help, because no online business can survive if it can’t be found on Google’s search results. We wrote to Google, told them our client’s story, and asked them to take the distributors’ websites off Google’s search results all over the world.

Google refused, so we went to court. We won at all three levels of court in Canada.

The first level was the BC Supreme Court: 2014 BCSC 1063. Madam Justice Fenlon wrote:

The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the order against Google: 2015 BCCA 265.

Google appealed further to the Supreme Court of Canada, which dismissed Google's appeal and upheld the order: 2017 SCC 34. Madam Justice Abella wrote:

Three weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada decision, Google sued our clients in US Federal Court in California, seeking an injunction and declaration that the BC court orders were unlawful and unenforceable in the United States. There did not appear to be any reasonable basis for the US court to claim jurisdiction over our clients, so they chose not to respond. Without any opposition, Google obtained the US court orders it sought and then came back to British Columbia to ask the BC Supreme Court to cancel its original injunction, out of respect for the American decision.

We argued this case as well – and the court dismissed Google’s application (2018 BCSC 610).
Mr. Justice Smith wrote:

The result is that Google continues to be obliged to comply with the BC court order, wherever it delivers search results in the world.

Selected press coverage: