Europol and US ICE seize 292 domains selling counterfeit goods

Europol and US ICE seize 292 domains selling counterfeit goods.

The law enforcement agencies are cracking whip hard at counterfeiters after the recent bust of Silk Road 2.0 under Operation Onymous.  Now, the European law enforcement umbrella organisation, Europol in active collaboration with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has seized the domains of almost 300 websites that were selling counterfeit merchandise.

The operation which was completed over last weekend was a part of a old operation called’In Our Sites (IOS) Transatlantic V,’ which targets fake goods and counterfeiters websites.

The operation was coordinated by Europol for its partners (Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom) and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, DC, for the United States.

Europol said that since August 2014, it and IPR Center (NIPRCC) have received leads from several trademark holders regarding the infringing websites which were selling counterfeit goods.  This information in turn was circulated by Europol among the law enforcement authorities of the 19 participating countries.

Action

Europol said it has seized around 292 domains, the domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. If any visitor enters this domain names in their web browsers, he/she will be met by a banner of that particular law enforcement agency and notify them about the siezure.  The law enforcement agencies have also put up a tutorial which educates the visitors about counterfeit goods and  crime of wilful copyright infringement.  Some sites may be inaccessible in some cases. Europol said that the most popular counterfeit products concerned include the traditional luxury goods but also sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods like movies and music.

“The infringements of intellectual property rights is a growing problem in our economies and for millions of producers and consumers. Europol is committed to working with its international partners to crack down on the criminal networks responsible for this illegal activity,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.

While seizing the websites is only one way of disrupting and hindering the criminals behind the sale of counterfeits on the Internet, law enforcement authorities also now focus increasingly on the ‘follow-the-money’ approach, in line with the EU Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-760_en.htm).

Project IOS is a sustained law enforcement initiative which was kick of in November 2012 and the authorities have successfully seized 1892 websites including the above 292 websites selling counterfeit merchandise on the Internet from November 2012 till date.

“Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said NIPRCC Acting Director Bruce Foucart. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”

Counterfeit products being sold online not only rip off the consumer and provide shoddy products, but also put their personal financial information at risk. Consumers are encouraged to report counterfeit products and websites selling them, but also encouraged to raise awareness with others because counterfeiting crimes result in many victims. In addition, the crimes can cause revenue and tax losses, unemployment, environmental, health and safety issues for humans and animals, human exploitation and child labour, Europol said in the statement issued in the wake of seizures.

Resource : Europol

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