U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the European Police Office (Europol) on Monday seized 133 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.
For the U.S., one person was arrested and $175,000 seized.
The 133 domain names seized are part of Project Cyber Monday 3. The websites duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operation was coordinated by the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. for the US and by Europol in Europe.
In addition to seizing domain names with a top-level domain controlled by U.S. Registries, the IPR Center partnered with Europol to execute coordinated seizures of foreign-based TLDs such as .be, .eu, .dk, .fr, .ro, and .uk.
During this operation, Federal US law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, cologne, and a variety of clothing, jewellery and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from federal magistrate judges.
“This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center,” says ICE Director John Morton. “That partnership enables us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win.”
The IPR Center and Europol received leads from various trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to ten investigating HSI field offices in Baltimore, Denver, El Paso, Houston, Newark, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Paul, Buffalo, and Ventura (Ca) and to the investigating Europol member countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“Europol became member of the Intellectual Property Right Coordination Center (IPR Center) this year and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes. IPR theft is not a harmless or victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks and it undermines our economy,” says Mr Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The domain names are now in the custody of the respective governments of the participating countries. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.
In addition to the domain name seizures, Cyber Monday 3 identified PayPal accounts utilised by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating HSI field offices.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity to work closely with HSI to shut down criminals targeting our customers and our brand just as the holiday season takes off,” said Tod Cohen, Government Relations for eBay Inc. “PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and we hope that this is fair warning to criminals that the internet is not a safe place to try and sell fake goods.”