Feds seize domain names in counterfeit goods bust

Seizure orders were executed against 82 domain names of commercial Internet websites engaged in the alleged illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation in Our Sites v. 2.0, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Director John Morton of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced last week.

According to a press release, the coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses, as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.

Four websites — 2009jerseys.com, dvdprostore. com, golfstaring.com and ipodnanouk. com — were seized as a result of the coordinated efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman said, “If a price seems to good to be true, it probably is. Today’s enforcement action is a reminder to the people of New Jersey: be vigilant consumers during the holiday season.”

Peter T. Edge, special agent in charge of HSI in Newark, said: “HSI plays a leading role in investigating the production, smuggling and distribution of counterfeit products. While the threat is growing in magnitude and complexity, especially in the areas of counterfeit products that are harmful to American consumers; pharmaceuticals, electrical items, glasses and perfume – HSI is determined to bring to justice the criminals who profit off the backs of legitimate companies and their hard-working employees.”

During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods, according to the press release.

In many instances the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. 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 U.S. magistrate judges.

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 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 sale of counterfeit U.S. 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,” said ICE Director John Morton. “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.”

According to the press release, the operation builds upon Operation in Our Sites I, which was announced in June. In that first action of this broader law enforcement initiative, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of Internet websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies.