U.S. authorities seized some 150 websites allegedly selling counterfeit goods including shoes, purses, sunglasses and sports jerseys, coinciding with the Cyber Monday holiday shopping day.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), the Department of Justice and the FBI Washington Field Office have participated to the operation.
"For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it's the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers," said ICE Director John Morton. "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. 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."
"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," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "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."
This operation is the eighth phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeit and piracy on the Internet, and the second year it has coincided with Cyber Monday.
The 150 seized domains are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will now 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.
During this operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of a host of products, including professional sports jerseys, golf equipment, DVD sets, footwear, handbags and sunglasses, representing a variety of trademarks from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. In most cases, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries. If the trademark 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.
Since the operation's June 2010 launch, the IPR Center has seized a total of 350 domain names, and the seizure banner has received more than 77 million individual views.