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November 28, 2011

Federal Agencies Seize Domain Names of 150 Counterfeit Websites

By Erin Harrison, Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

As of Cyber Monday (News - Alert), federal agencies in the U.S. have seized the domain names of 150 so-called counterfeit websites, including those that purported to sell items such as handbags, shoes and DVD sets, according to media reports.

Seizure orders have been executed against 150 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites, the Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), and the FBI Washington Field Office announced.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Monday that the federal operation is targeting websites who are selling fake goods, especially during the holiday shopping season when consumers are scouring the Internet for discounted deals.

“Through this operation we are aggressively targeting those who are selling counterfeit goods for their own personal gain while costing our economy much-needed revenue and jobs,” Holder said.  “Intellectual property crimes harm businesses and consumers, alike, threatening economic opportunity and financial stability, and today we have sent a clear message that the Department will remain ever vigilant in protecting the public’s economic welfare and public safety through robust intellectual property enforcement.” 

Visitors to the sites – which are now in the custody of the federal government – will find a “seizure banner” that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.

As millions of Americans go online for Cyber Monday deals, they could be giving business to illegal ventures and contribute to business profits taken away from the U.S., ICE Director John Morton said.

“More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realize that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products,” Morton said. “And the ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organized crime.”

Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said the targeted websites – all outside of the U.S. – are engaged in “outright theft,” Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s criminal division, told PC World, adding “This is people being duped into buying a counterfeit.”

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TMCnet, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf
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