Three of the country’s largest college textbook publishers have filed a lawsuit against Follett Corp. charging the company with selling counterfeit textbooks.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Cengage, McGraw-Hill Education, and Pearson Education. The complaint claims Follett engaged in copyright and trademark infringement, as well as trademark counterfeiting.
According to the complaint, Follett, through both its college stores and distribution businesses, has been selling counterfeit copies of their books. The activity has been going on, the plaintiffs say, despite their repeated attempts to work with Follett to eliminate such sales. The three publishers that filed the suit allege Follett has “long recognized” that, by buying books from non-reputable third party sellers, it is knowingly filling its inventory with a selection of counterfeit titles.
Follett, the publishers said, defended its practice of buying from third-party sellers by saying it inspected this inventory as thoroughly as possible. The suit claims, though, that Follet's “inspection processes are porous and flawed” causing the publishers' inventory to be “infected with counterfeits.”
To show the prevalence of the sale of counterfeit textbooks, the publishers cited an example involving a McGraw-Hill sales representative. The rep bought roughly 20 copies of a MHE textbook from a Follettt-run bookstore, and all were counterfeit.
Follett responded to the lawsuit by saying that the intention of it is to “cripple the campus store’s ability to provide low-cost course material options" and force students into buying higher-priced textbooks directly from the publishers.
The CEO of Follett, Ray Griffith, acknowledged that the sale of counterfeit textbooks hurts “everyone in the industry." He feels, though, that the solution to the problem requires a "collaborative" response. "It is unfortunate that the publishers don’t’ agree with that approach,” he said.
Furthermore, Follett questions the timing of the lawsuit. The company said that, prior to the filing of the suit, the publishers had been pressuring Follett and other campus retailers and distributors to adopt certain best practices. The practices, Follett said, would "effectively restrict [students'] access to low-cost used and rental course materials on campus. “
In its lawsuit, the publishers are asking the court to issue an injunction preventing Follett from further copyright and trademark infringement. The suit also asks that Follett turn over to the publishers any profits earned from the sale of counterfeit textbooks. The publishers behind the suit are also seeking statutory damages, and and order for Follett to destroy all materials connected to the counterfeit texts.