Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc., et al.

(British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave)




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Administrative law — Interlocutory orders — Injunctions — Private international law — Extraterritoriality — Communications law — Internet — Intellectual property — Industrial design — Interim injunction issued against non-party to litigation — Google prohibited from displaying impugned websites in Internet search results — Under what circumstances may a court order a search engine to block search results, having regard to the interest in access to information and freedom of expression, and what limits (either geographic or temporal) must be imposed on those orders? — Do Canadian courts have the authority to block search results outside of Canada’s borders? — Under what circumstances, if any, is a litigant entitled to an interlocutory injunction against a non-party that is not alleged to have done anything wrong?

The plaintiffs sued their former distributors for unlawful appropriation of trade secrets, alleging that the distributors designed and sold counterfeit versions of their products. The plaintiffs obtained injunctions against the distributors, prohibiting them from carrying on any business online. When this proved ineffective, the plaintiffs sought a court order against Google, to prohibit it from displaying search results that included the distributors’ websites.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia granted a worldwide injunction against Google, finding that it had territorial competence over Google and that it possessed an inherent jurisdiction to maintain the rule of law and protect its processes, which in appropriate circumstances may include an injunction against non-parties. In this case, the balance of convenience favoured granting an injunction. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court held jurisdiction over Google with respect to the injunction application. It also concluded that it was permissible to seek interim relief against a non-party. The power to grant injunctions is presumptively unlimited, and injunctions aimed at maintaining order need not be directed solely at the parties involved in litigation. In this case, an injunction with worldwide effect was justified.

Lower Court Rulings

June 13, 2014
Supreme Court of British Columbia

S112421, 2014 BCSC 1063
Application by plaintiffs for interim injunction prohibiting Google from displaying certain websites in Internet search results – granted.
July 23, 2014
Court of Appeal for British Columbia (Vancouver)

CA041923, 2014 BCCA 295
Application by Google for leave to appeal – granted; application by Google for stay of interim injunction order – dismissed.
June 11, 2015
Court of Appeal for British Columbia (Vancouver)

CA041923, 2015 BCCA 265
Appeal by Google against interim injunction order – dismissed.