​Major Publishers Dismiss Lawsuit Against Follett Corporation

Higher Education

​Major Publishers Dismiss Lawsuit Against Follett Corporation

By Sydney Johnson     Oct 12, 2017

​Major Publishers Dismiss Lawsuit Against Follett Corporation

Follett Corporation, a textbook distribution company, announced this week that it has agreed to adopt a set of “Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices,” a list of guidelines co-developed and endorsed by four major textbook publishers. But up until last week, three of those publishers—Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill Education and Cengage Learning—were suing Follett over alleged counterfeit sales.

As part of the agreement to adopt the principals, the publishers dismissed their case against Follett, which claimed the company was purchasing illegal copies of textbooks and selling them at its college stores and through other distribution channels.

Clay Wahl, president at Follett Higher Education, shared in a prepared statement that “Follett has always been committed to combating counterfeiting, and through productive dialogue with the publishers over the last several months, we are pleased to have found common ground with them in the ongoing fight against counterfeit textbooks.”

Follett’s news release however leaves out any note about the lawsuit. Also missing from the lawsuit’s digital trail is Follett’s public response to the allegations, which EdSurge reported in June.

When the lawsuit emerged, Follett released a statement saying the suit was an attempt to “cripple the campus store’s ability to provide lower-cost course material options, leaving students little choice but to buy higher priced texts from the publishers.” Publishers Weekly also reports that Follett “questioned the timing of the suit, which it noted came shortly after publishers had started a campaign to get textbook retailers and distributors to adopt the publishers new best practices.”

Follett did not provide a comment when asked about the settlement, as well as the decision to both adopt the principals and remove its previous public statement. The terms of the settlement “are confidential,” a spokesperson from McGraw-Hill tells EdSurge.

Matt Oppenheim, the publishers’ lawyer, says regarding Follett’s removed statement that “the [previous] press release was issued in the context of litigation, and we aren't in litigation anymore.” As to whether or not Follett was asked to take down their comments as part of the settlement to dismiss the lawsuit, Oppenheim said he “can’t speak to what is in the settlement agreement, but as a general proposition the parties have made peace.”

The anti-counterfeiting guidelines were created by the Educational Publishers Enforcement Group, a cohort made up of Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill Education and Cengage Learning, as well as Elsevier. The measures include steps to help distributors avoid and identify counterfeit material, which includes employing a verification process to confirm that the “affirming supplier is accurate and updated regularly.”

Booksellers who have taken those steps already include Barnes & Noble Education, Chegg, Inc., Ingram Book Group, MBS Textbook Exchange and Valore. “Follett was the last holdout of the major distributors [to adopt the best practices] and I think this sends a message to others in the industry to what the expectation is now,” says Oppenheim.

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