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Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley win $34.2m willful trademark and copyright infringement suit

Don't buy counterfeit textbooksCengage, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and Wiley won a $34.2 million verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a group of online booksellers and their owner for dealing in counterfeit textbooks.

The nine-person jury unanimously found the defendants — several Ohio-based bookselling companies, including Book Dog Books and Robert William Management, and their owner, Philip Smyres — liable for willful trademark infringement, willful copyright infringement, and breach of a prior settlement agreement.

Defendants sell online through their websites, and, as well as through numerous storefronts on online marketplaces including Amazon, eBay, Abebooks, Alibris and others. The defendants’ primary Amazon storefront is named Apex_Media. The trial consolidated two separate cases against different combinations of these defendants. The first case was filed back in 2013. After newly discovered counterfeits could no longer be added into the first case, a second case was filed in 2016.

Counterfeits are fakes of the real product. They are illegal regardless whether of handbags, prescription drugs, or textbooks. The sale of counterfeit textbooks harms all those involved within the ecosystem of creating, distributing, and using high quality textbooks, including authors, students, publishers, and others.

Matt Oppenheim, lead counsel for the publishers, commented: “We believe that the jury understood the inherent and important value of educational textbooks, and that book distributors have an obligation to ensure that their inventory is authentic product.”

The education world has been plagued by an increase in counterfeit books in recent years. In response, the publishers have actively enforced their legal rights against those found distributing counterfeit materials. Several publishers have also developed Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices, which are available on the educational website located at The Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices are intended to assist distributors with combating counterfeits of print textbooks that hurt students, educators, publishers and distributors.

Update: On April 24, 2018, the four publishers asked a New York federal judge to finalize the verdict to secure the award against Book Dog Books as soon as possible because of the company’s “penchant — both in and out of court — for skirting their legal obligations.”