US Government Closes Counterfeit Goods Websites

US government authorities have closed 82 websites that it deemed were selling counterfeit goods

US authorities have announced the execution of seizure orders against 82 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 v. 2.0.

The closures were revealed by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director John Morton of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. The Department of Justice (DOJ) noted in many instances, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail.

Banner Warning

If the goods were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from US magistrate judges. A public notice from the DOJ explained individuals attempting to access the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

“By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs. The Justice Department, with the help of our law enforcement partners, is changing the perception that these crimes are risk-free with enforcement actions like the one announced today.”

The operation builds upon Operation in Our Sites I, which was announced in June 2010. In that first action of this broader law enforcement initiative, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies. The nationwide operation was spearheaded by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) led by ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and nine US Attorneys’ Offices.

Counterfeit Clampdown

“The sale of counterfeit US brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers,” Morton said. “The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when counterfeit goods are trafficked.”

The DOJ said the enforcement actions announced are an example of the type of efforts being undertaken by the DOJ Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those “who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work”, according to the agency’s Web site.

The IPR Center is led by ICE’s HSI and includes partners from US Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, the Department of Commerce, the Food and Drug Administration, the Postal Inspection Service and the General Services Administration.

The Center allows law enforcement and the private sector to jointly to address the issue of counterfeit products. The agency coordinates outreach to US rights holders and conducts domestic and international law enforcement as well as coordinates and directs anti-counterfeiting investigations.