Criminal courts not only deal with burglaries, robberies and violent crimes, but also with trademark infringement and copyright infringement. In this case, the illegal use of car logo’s on an online shopping site resulted in 9 months of jail time in the Netherlands.
Lawsuits about trademark infringement are often the result of a conflict between citizens or companies and are ultimately brought before a civil court by those citizens or companies themselves. In criminal cases, the public prosecutor decides if and when a case will be brought before the court. Unlike a civil court, a criminal court can also impose a prison sentence for trademark or copyright infringement. Those cases usually involve customs (import/export) or large-scale illegal trade.
Logos of well-known cars
A perfect example of such a criminal trademark infringement case recently served with the Dutch District Court of Overijssel. The court sentenced a 31-year old from the city of Hengelo to a prison term of nine months for illegally trading in navigation software on ‘Marktplaats’ the foremost Dutch online marketplace. The names and logos of well-known car brands were used 'without permission'. Specific detail: the logo stickers were found in the house of the suspect's mother.
A very nasty business
Infringement of trademark rights and copyrights was assumed without hesitation. Not only did the infringement impose unfair competition on bona fide companies that do comply with trademark and IP law, but faulty navigation software can also lead to life-threatening situations. A ‘very nasty business’, the court concludes, seeing no other possibility than imposing a prison sentence of 9 months.
In this case the public prosecutor was made aware of the infringement by the trademark owners, after which the FIOD, the Dutch agency responsible for investigating financial crimes, started an investigation. The trademark owners and the public prosecutor jointly concluded that this particular trademark infringement would best be dealt with under criminal law.