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Are Your Textbooks Legit?

Prominent academic publishers file a suit against another distributor of counterfeit textbooks

On March 8, 2021, Pearson Education, Inc.; Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group, LLC d/b/a Macmillan Learning; Cengage Learning, Inc.; and McGraw Hill LLC (collectively the "Publishers") filed suit against Bookholders LLC, a textbook retailer ("Bookholders").

The Complaint alleges that, at least since 2017, Bookholders has been distributing counterfeit copies of legitimate textbooks produced by the Publishers. These counterfeits allegedly differ from the originals (and may be inferior) in both appearance and materials, and may even be missing content contained in the originals. The Publishers purport the counterfeit textbooks also infringe on copyrighted content and valid trademarks held by the Publishers.

In the Complaint, the Publishers claim that Bookholders has distributed the counterfeits through its own website, through storefronts on prominent book retail websites (like Amazon and Abebooks), and through brick and mortar stores.

According to the Publishers, they have sent multiple notices of infringement to Bookholders between 2017 and 2019. The Publishers further claim that after these repeated notices, Bookholders stopped responding, and opted to continue "its persistent, obvious, and ongoing infringement. . . ."

The Publishers identify several problems caused by the sale of counterfeit textbooks. First, the Publishers assert sales of the counterfeit texts take away income that the Publishers (and the authors they represent) could be making from legitimate sales. Second, the loss in sales in turn causes fewer resources to be available for the publication of new deserving works. This hurts both authors and students who could make use of these works. Third, the Publishers have no control over the quality of the counterfeits, which are often inferior to the originals. The Publishers allege this inferior quality can tarnish the reputations and trademarks of the Publishers in the eyes of the public, who may not realize they are purchasing counterfeit works.

In exhibits attached to the Complaint, the Publishers identify copyrighted works from their catalogs and trademarks which they assert have been infringed in books sold by Bookholders. The Publishers hope to update and expand these lists as discovery bring further infringement to light.

The Publishers are seeking damages, injunctive relief, and destruction of all infringing material. Bookholders has not yet filed a reply to the Complaint.

Our reporting on similar academic publishing cases can be found here, here, and here.