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The Book is Closed on Another Academic Publishing Case

Publishers and merchant have come to a final settlement in textbook counterfeiting matter.

On June 26, 2020, Pearson Education, Inc., Elsevier Inc., McGraw Hill LLC, and Cengage Learning, Inc. (collectively, the "Publishers") filed suit against Thrift Books Global LLC ("Thrift Books"). Rather than producing any judicial fireworks, the case proceeded on a slow burn until the end of 2020, when it fizzled into settlement.

The Publishers' Complaint alleged that Thrift Books, operating through various wholesale and retail outlets, online and in person, had engaged in distribution of counterfeit textbooks embodying the Publishers' copyrighted content and trademarks. Initially, the Publishers identified a list of 23 titles that they were aware had been counterfeited, but their Complaint maintained that this list was likely just a small sampling of what had actually been counterfeited.

Although Thrift Books did not create the counterfeit books, the Publishers asserted that Thrift Books, "obtained these books without any due diligence as to where the suppliers acquired the books or the authenticity of the books." The Publishers claim that Thrift Books, "compounded the problem when, upon receipt of the books, it failed to conduct an adequate review for authenticity."

The Complaint emphasized that counterfeiting damaged the Publishers in two ways. First, counterfeiting caused monetary damage by taking away revenue that the Publishers could have made by selling legitimate copies of the books. These profit losses resulted in the Publishers being able to publish fewer books, slowing the carrying out and dissemination of research. Second, the counterfeiting tarnished the trademarks of the Publishers, since the counterfeit books can be made of different and inferior materials and may even be missing content. These differences could leave consumers, who are unable to distinguish counterfeited books from originals, with an unfavorable opinion of the Publishers themselves. In connection with these potential effects of counterfeiting, the Complaint requested both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

The Publishers had engaged in settlement negotiations with Thrift Books before they filed their suit, and it appears that these negotiations continued in one form or another throughout the months after the suit was filed. On December 3, 2020, the court filed a settlement order in accordance with a settlement reached by the parties, and on December 15, the court approved the Publishers' stipulation of dismissal.

We have reported on similar textbook counterfeiting cases on September 8, 2020, and January 27, 2020.