Google LLC v. Equustek Solutions Inc., No. 5:17-cv-04207 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2017) [click for opinion]

Defendants Equustek Solutions Inc., Clarma Enterprises Inc., and Robert Angus (together, "Equustek"), are computer hardware distributors and sellers who originally filed suit in Canada against a third-party competitor, Datalink. Equustek alleged that Datalink colluded with Equustek's former engineer to incorporate Equustek's trade secrets into Datalink's products and misled consumers into believing that they were actually buying Equustek's products. Equustek obtained multiple Canadian orders against Datalink with which Datalink failed to comply.

After the Canadian court granted Equustek's request for injunctive relief against Datalink, Google blocked more than 300 Datalink websites from appearing in its Canada-specific search results. However, Google did not voluntarily remove Datalink websites from search results targeted to users outside Canada. Equustek therefore sought and obtained an order from Canada's highest court requiring Google to remove Datalink websites from its global search results.

Google complied with the Canadian court order, but subsequently filed this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In it, Google sought a declaratory judgment that the Canadian court's order could not be enforced in the United States based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), the First Amendment, and international comity, and sought an order enjoining its enforcement in the United States.

The U.S. court did not consider Google's First Amendment or international comity arguments. Instead, it granted Google's request for a preliminary injunction on the basis that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes providers of interactive computer services against liability arising from content created by third parties. Specifically, the court reasoned that Google, as an interactive computer services provider, was likely to succeed on the merits of its Section 230 case because the Canadian order, which required Google as an intermediary to remove third-party content, effectively held Google liable as a publisher of information that was provided by another information content provider, Datalink.

The court further reasoned that the Canadian order would irreparably harm Google by restricting activity that Section 230 protects, and the balance of equities weighed strongly in favor of granting the injunction since the Canadian order would deprive Google of the benefits of U.S. federal law. Finally, the court concluded that the preliminary injunction would serve the public interest by preventing the severe curtailment of free speech on the internet that would inevitably come with websites facing tort liability for hosting user-generated content. Accordingly, the court granted Google's preliminary injunction.