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Can Canadian Court Force Google to Alter Search Results Globally?

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By George Khoury, Esq. on July 27, 2017 6:57 AM

Last month, Canada's Supreme Court upheld a lower court's order that Google alter their search results worldwide as a result of a lawsuit alleging that one Canadian company had infringed upon the intellectual property rights of another Canadian company. However, while Google plans to respect the Canadian court's authority, in Canada at least, it's going to check with a U.S. court before making the global change.

This case presents a few novel, yet significant, issues. Most notably is that the order is the first ever global de-indexing order issued by a court. This raises the issue of whether any court actually has sufficient authority to issue an order to be enforced worldwide. The other big issue is whether Google can be forced to take action outside of Canada based on the fact that no violation of law other than Canadian law has been established. And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the potential First Amendment, government censorship, and net neutrality issues.

Details of the Infringement

In short, Equustek sued Datalink Technologies due to the latter's blatant infringement. Datalink was found to be illegally relabeling Equustek's products and reselling them. After the action was commenced, Datalink seemed to disappear from physical existence in Canada, but remained active online. Equustek then requested the court order Google, a non-party to the lawsuit, to de-index any links and search results that would list Datalink in an attempt to stop that company from continuing to illegally profit by infringement.

Google complied for their Canadian site, www.google.ca, but appealed the matter until the Canadian High Court decided that the principles of U.S. law that Google had relied on were merely theoretical. Additionally, the Canadian High Court ruled that it did have the authority to make the worldwide de-indexing order as Datalink sales in Canada, and across the globe, impact the Equustek in Canada. Notably, Canadians are not forced into using google.ca, and can still access the original google.com.

Infringement in the Age of Internet Jurisdiction

Google is challenging the global de-indexing order in the Northern District Court of California, where the company is headquartered. The complaint, filed against Equustek, requests that the U.S. federal court issue a declaratory judgment that Google cannot be forced to globally de-index a website as it would violate established American legal principles. 

Google explains that it was singled out over Yahoo and Bing, who were not subject to the order. Additionally, Google lays out that "Google is not the Internet," and goes on to explain that the web-host that stores Datalink's website would be the better target for the Canadian court's order.

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