As part of an international operation, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) seized 33,654 domain names distributing counterfeit and pirated items online. This takes the total to more than one million that have been seized in the past 12 months. Continue reading Over 33,000 Domain Names Seized Selling Counterfeit Goods in Latest Operation In Our Sites
Tag Archives: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
North American And European Police Combine To Seize 4,500 Domains Linked To Counterfeit Goods
Over 4,500 domain names hosting websites selling counterfeit products to consumers online have been seized by law enforcement authorities in a joint global operation. Operation In Our Sites VII tackled copyright-infringing websites and third-party marketplace listings selling luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products.There were roughly 15,000 illegal websites seized and 48,000 erroneous ecommerce links removed over the past year as part of the operation.Law enforcement authorities from 27 countries, anti-counterfeiting associations and brand owner representatives participated in this huge action, which was coordinated and facilitated by Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition, the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and Interpol.”This year’s operation IOS VII has seen a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year. This excellent result shows how effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities and private sector partners is vital to ultimately make the internet a safer place for consumers. Through its Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), Europol will continue to work closely with its partners to strengthen the fight against intellectual property crime online and offline,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.”The tremendous collaborative efforts between law enforcement and industry prove the internet is not a safe haven for counterfeiters preying on consumers,” said the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center Director Bruce Foucart. “Our investigators are committed to bringing online pirates to justice by seizing websites, working with global police authorities and strengthening relationships with industry partners.”Fighting the trade of counterfeit products online is a challenging and difficult task for law enforcement. To strengthen the fight against counterfeiting and piracy online and offline, Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) joined forces to launch the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC) in July 2016. With its increased operational capabilities, the IPC has successfully supported many high-priority investigations related to online intellectual property infringements such as Operation Student and Operation Fake.
US Court Orders Seizure of 67 Domains Involved in Smuggling and Selling Misbranded and Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
A US federal court has ordered the seizure of dozens of domain names officials believe are involved in the smuggling and selling of misbranded and counterfeit prescription drugs.
United States Attorney Bill Nettles Tuesday announced that Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementâs (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations executed seizure orders against 67 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit and prescription drugs. The seized domains are now in the custody of the US government. Visitors to the sites will now find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities for violations of federal laws against smuggling and trademark misuse.
The domain names are subject to forfeiture under federal forfeiture laws that afford individuals who have an interest in the seized domain names a period of time after the âNotice of Seizureâ to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after the âNotice of Forfeitureâ to contest the forfeiture.Â If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become property of the U.S. government.
Said Nettles: âItâs important for consumers to understand the significant risks involved in purchasing pharmaceutical drugs from these websites.Â The generic versions of these prescription drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and cannot be distributed in the United States legally.Â To be safe and effective, prescription drugs must be taken under the care and supervision of appropriate health care professionals; not purchased off the internet from unknown and unregulated foreign sources.â
The case was investigated by Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementâs (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations.Â Â Assistant United States Attorney Eric Klumb is assigned to handle the forfeiture.
US Government Announces Seizure Of 30,000 Domains In Global Action
Europol announced last week they had seized just 292 domain names in a global operation with 24 other law enforcement bodies across 18 countries including the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The domains were involved in the sale of counterfeit goods online.But a day later the ICE announced 100 times that many domains had been seized in the operation. The ICE announced 29,684 domain names were seized as part of Project Transatlantic/ Operation In-Our-Sites V.The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (National IPR Center) continues to work vigilantly to protect the U.S. public from counterfeit products that pose health and safety concerns or have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy. With its industry partners, the National IPR Center initiated a coordinated effort to disrupt the operation of these infringing websites. During this past year and leading up to Cyber Monday, the National IPR Center and its partners used both criminal and civil actions to successfully shutdown websites selling counterfeit goods, significantly bolstering the overall impact of this year’s efforts. The operation demonstrates the great collaboration between industry members and personnel from the National IPR Center, who effectively worked together to combat this ever growing problem. The National IPR Center extends its appreciation to rights holders representing name brand apparel, handbags, shoes, eyewear, cosmetics, consumer electronics, athletic apparel, sporting goods, personal care products, as well as the entertainment industry. All contributed to this operation’s success.This is the fifth year the HSI-led National IPR Center worked with its international partners to target websites selling counterfeit products online culminating on Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the National IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic/Operation In-Our-Sites V.”Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said National IPR Center 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.”Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online. In this ever changing world, the Internet has facilitated the sale of counterfeit merchandise online and counterfeiters have taken advantage of the Internet to deceive, sell and ship counterfeit products directly to unsuspecting consumers. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories, according to the National IPR Center.”The infringement 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.The HSI-led National IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the National IPR Center uses the expertise of its 23-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the National IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.
Europol Leads Operation To Seize Hundreds Of Domains Linked To Counterfeit Goods In Lead-Up To Christmas
In its third operation in 12 months, Europol working with European and US law enforcement agencies has seized hundreds of domain names linked to the sale of counterfeit goods online.The latest operation saw Europol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), together with 25 law enforcement agencies from 19 countries, seize 292 domain names. The latest announcement brings the total to 1,170 domain names seized in the three operations.The 292 domain names seized are part of project ‘In Our Sites (IOS) Transatlantic V’. 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.Since August, Europol and the IPR Center (NIPRCC) have received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites, which were then circulated to law enforcement authorities in the participating countries.The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will find either a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the crime of wilful copyright infringement, or the visitors will not be able to access the website anymore. 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.Project IOS is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. The 292 domain names seized under Operation IOS V brings the total number of IOS domain names seized to 1829 since the IOS project began in November 2012.”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.
European And US Law Enforcement Agencies Seize 132 Domains Selling Counterfeit Merchandise
European and US law enforcement agencies have taken action against domain names involved in the selling of counterfeit goods, seizing 133 domains, arresting one person in the US and seizing $175,000.The 133 domain names seized are part of Project Cyber Monday, an iteration of Operation In Our Sites, which is coordinated by the US law enforcement bodies.The latest operation targeted websites that duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operation was coordinated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. for the US and the European Police Office (Europol) in Europe.In addition to seizing domain names with a top-level domain (TLD) controlled by US registries, the IPR Center partnered with Europol to execute coordinated seizures of mostly European-based TLDs such as .be, .eu, .dk, .fr, .ro, and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic.During this operation, federal US law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, cologne, and a variety of clothing, jewellery and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright 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.”This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center,” says ICE Director John Morton. “That partnership enables us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win.”The IPR Center and Europol received leads from various trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to ten investigating HSI field offices in Baltimore, Denver, El Paso, Houston, Newark, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Paul, Buffalo, and Ventura (Ca) and to the investigating Europol member countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.”Europol became member of the Intellectual Property Right Coordination Center (IPR Center) this year and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes. IPR theft is not a harmless or victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks and it undermines our economy,” says Mr Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.The domain names are now in the custody of the respective governments of the participating countries. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.In addition to the domain name seizures, Cyber Monday 3 identified PayPal accounts utilised by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating HSI field offices.”We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity to work closely with HSI to shut down criminals targeting our customers and our brand just as the holiday season takes off,” said Tod Cohen, Government Relations for eBay Inc. “PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and we hope that this is fair warning to criminals that the internet is not a safe place to try and sell fake goods.”Operation In Our Sites (IOS) is a sustained law enforcement initiative by the ICE that began more than two years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the internet. The 101 domain names by ICE seized under Project Cyber Monday 3 bring the total number of IOS domain names seized to 1,630 since the operation began in June 2010. Since that time, the seizure banner has received more than 110 million individual views.Of the 1,529 previous domain names seized, 684 have now been forfeited to the U.S. government. The federal forfeiture process affords individuals who have an interest in seized domain names a period of time after a “Notice of Seizure” to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after a “Notice of Forfeiture” to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become the property of the U.S. government. Additionally, a public service announcement, launched in April 2011, is linked from the seizure banner on each of the 684 forfeited websites.The banner and video educate the public about the criminal consequences of trafficking in counterfeit goods and the economic impact that crime has on the U.S. and global economies.U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Districts of Maryland, Colorado, New Jersey, Southern District of California, Central District of California, Western District of New York and the Western District of Texas issued the warrants for the seizures. Significant assistance was provided by the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
Swedish Registry Answers Questions On Will It Shut Down ThePirateBay.se
With The Pirate Bay now using a .SE domain name in an attempt to avoid US authorities seizing control of its domain, the Swedish registry .se has put out a statement explaining the situation for the file sharing sites current preferred domain name.Back in February The Pirate Bay switched from using a .ORG domain to .SE following US government agencies seizing a number of .COM domains that were being used for selling counterfeit goods and other activities. Operation In Our Sites has been operated by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center). Through the operation, the US government had seized 769 domain names as of July 2012.The statement from .se is below:Will .SE shut down thepiratebay.se?When the Supreme Court of Sweden decided in February not to examine the court of appeal’s ruling in the protracted trial against The Pirate Bay (TPB), the file-sharing site was relocated from .org to .se. .SE has not been issued a formal court order to take action based on the ruling. However, we receive many questions about how we would react if the situation were to come to a head, which I would now like to address.So far, .SE has not taken any actions following the ruling against TPB since we do not consider ourselves obligated to do so based on the contents of the ruling. Nor is it possible to answer hypothetical questions regarding how we would respond if we were to receive a formal order. Our actions would largely be determined by the contents of the order and the issuing party. Accordingly, we will assess the situation on a case-by-case basis if such an order is issued.
Generally speaking, what actions can .SE take against a domain name registrant?We always have the right to take action based on a ruling against us pertaining to a specific domain name. Under Item 6 of our user agreement, we also have the right to deactivate and deregister a domain in the event that the domain itself or the manner in which it is used constitutes an obvious infraction against Swedish law. This provision is formulated in such a way as to enable us to take action in obvious cases – for example, in the distribution of child pornography or agitation against a national or ethnic group.However, this is a right not an obligation, and such action would only be taken after a decision is made by .SE’s Board of Directors. Such a decision has never before been made.We believe that the judicial authorities should determine whether or not it is appropriate to take action against a particular domain name registrant. Unless we have been ordered to do so, there is a risk that we could call the validity of the legal process into question by taking action before a ruling is passed.However, on a couple of occasions, we have deactivated a domain when suspicions of identity theft were raised and the domain in question had been used for what is known as phishing.What actions could the court order us to take?Naturally, we cannot know for certain, but a few possibilities are that the court could order the domain name to be deregistered, the name server to be removed or the domain name to be forfeited (seized) or placed on .SE’s block list.
Three ways to block a domainTPB is currently blocked in several countries. However, the methods used to block a domain are all relatively easy to circumvent and thus essentially ineffective. Three main methods exist. To illustrate these methods, we have chosen to compare them with various ways of breaking into a shoe store located in a shopping mall.1. Block the IP addressThis method is used, for example, by the Chinese state to limit its citizens’ access to websites deemed to be objectionable by the regime. The IP addresses of these sites are compiled in a list and no traffic is permitted to access them. However, it is relatively easy for the owner of the website to move it to another IP address, thereby circumventing the block.Users can also bypass a blocked IP address using an anonymity service, such as Tor, but this requires a relatively high level of technical ability.Blocking an IP address can be compared to blocking the entrance to a shoe store. While a determined customer would undoubtedly be able to enter through an emergency exit at the back of the store, most would assume the store was closed and shop elsewhere.2. Block or shut down the domain nameIt is possible to block a domain name by contacting either .SE, which can deregister the domain name, or the name server operator – usually a web hosting company – which is responsible for keeping track of the IP address or addresses associated with the domain name. However, the domain may still be accessible through the address.Removing a domain name can be compared to taking down the signs hanging outside the shoe store. Although this would make it more difficult for customers to find the store, it would still be there and any customers who were able to find it would be able to continue buying shoes there.3. Seize the serverWhen the Swedish police cracked down on web hosting company PRQ, PRQ’s servers were seized. However, it did not take long before The Pirate Bay was up and running again, since the contents of the servers had been copied in several other locations.In the physical world, this can be compared to closing the shoe store and confiscating the shoes, but the parallels end there. Since it is not possible to make back-up copies of physical products, such as shoes, it would be much more difficult for the storekeeper to resume operations.
The domain is not the problemWe believe the problem in this type of situation is not the domain, but rather its contents. The domain name itself is not an accomplice in act of copyright infringement and if thepiratebay.se, for example, were to be shut down, the site would almost certainly reopen under another top-level domain.
Seized Sites: The In Rem Forfeiture of Copyright-Infringing Domain Names by Andrew Sellars
Abstract: In the summer of 2010, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security began “Operation In Our Sites,” an enforcement sweep targeted towards websites allegedly dealing in counterfeit goods and copyright-infringing files. The operation targeted the websites by proceeding in rem against their respective domain names. For websites targeted for copyright infringement, ICE Agents used recently-expanded copyright forfeiture remedies passed under the 2008 PRO-IP Act, providing no adversarial hearing prior to the websites being removed, and only a probable cause standard of proof.This Paper examines three specific harms resulting from Operation In Our Sites, and three ways in which the enforcement sweep could be changed to better balance the interests of intellectual property enforcement and free expression. By removing content from the Internet before being fully adjudicated as infringing, the civil forfeiture remedy works a prior restraint of speech. To avoid this, this Paper urges Congress and the courts to institute the same procedural First Amendment protections in place in the area of obscenity to copyright infringement. Secondly, the alleged infringement here appears to be conducted by third parties posting material on the websites. By keeping website owners out of the dispute process, this remedy disrupts the cooperative spirit sought to be instilled by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s inclusion of statutory safe-harbors for online service providers. To reinstate this cooperative spirit, agents should be required to attempt in personam contact against the website owners before proceeding against the websites in rem. Finally, by targeting website domain names instead of actual content servers, Operation In Our Sites has not effectively disrupted the activities of the targeted websites. In fact, many websites have grown in popularity since this enforcement sweep began. Due to the dubious efficacy of targeting domain names, this remedy should be reserved for situations where there exists some other extrinsic reason to believe that the enforcement tactic will work.To download and read this paper by Andrew Sellars in full, go to:
US Seizes Another 70 Domains Selling Counterfeit Goods
Another 70 domain names allegedly involved in selling counterfeit merchandise were seized by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).The 70 websites seized are part of Project Copy Cat, an iteration of Operation In Our Sites (IOS), and closely mimicked legitimate websites selling authentic merchandise and duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods. Many of the websites so closely resembled the legitimate websites that it would be difficult for even the most discerning consumer to tell the difference.The websites are now shut down and their domain names are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.”This operation targeted criminals making a buck by trying to trick consumers into believing they were buying name brand products from legitimate websites when in fact they were buying counterfeits from illegal but sophisticated imposter sites located overseas,” said ICE Director John Morton. “The imposter sites were simply a fraud from start to finish and served no purpose other than to defraud and dupe unwary shoppers.”A new twist in the websites seized in Project Copy Cat involved the appearance of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. SSL certificates provide authentication for financial information, meaning consumers should be able to trust that they are sending information to the intended server and not to a criminal’s server. Trusted SSL providers should only issue SSL certificates to verified companies that have gone through several identity checks. In addition to providing authentication, SSL certificates also provide encryption, enhancing the security of credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and other sensitive information. These websites, however, displayed SSL certificates, further duping the consumer into thinking they were shopping on a legitimate website, potentially putting customers’ financial information at risk.During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products, including baby carriers, professional sports jerseys, language and fitness DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods 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 copyright 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.”Every day the U.S. economy and American jobs are negatively impacted by criminal organisations engaged in the sale of counterfeit merchandise through rogue websites. Even more importantly, consumer’s health and safety can be threatened when they unknowingly purchase counterfeit products,” said IPR Center Director Lev Kubiak. “Our goal at the IPR Center is to protect the public’s safety and economic welfare through robust intellectual property enforcement and we hope that today’s enforcement actions raise the public’s awareness to this pervasive crime.”This operation was the next phase of IOS, a sustained law enforcement initiative that began two years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. These 70 domain name seizures bring the total number of IOS domain names seized in the last two years to 839. This enforcement action coincides with the two-year anniversary of the 2010 launch of IOS. Since then, the seizure banner has received more than 103 million individual views.Of the 769 previous domain names seized, 229 have now been forfeited to the U.S. government. The federal forfeiture process affords individuals who have an interest in seized domain names a period of time after a “Notice of Seizure” to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after a “Notice of Forfeiture” to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become the property of the U.S. government. Additionally, a public service announcement, launched in April 2011, is linked from the seizure banner on each of the 229 forfeited websites. This video educates the public about the economic impact of counterfeiting.The operation was spearheaded by the IPR Center in coordination with HSI field offices in Denver, El Paso, Houston, Newark and Salt Lake City. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Western District of Texas, Southern District of Texas, District of New Jersey, District of Colorado and the District of Utah issued the warrants for the seizures. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.During the first phase of IOS in 2010, the IPR Center received information from the Motion Picture Association of America that a website, www.ninjavideo.net (Ninja Video), was illegally distributing pirated copies of motion pictures and other audiovisual works. Ninja Video provided its millions of visitors the ability to illegally download high quality copies of copyrighted movies including movies that were currently in theaters or not yet released.Following the seizure of the website, search warrants were executed at the residences of the primary suspects in the United States and funds were seized from 15 separate financial accounts. To date, the Ninja Video investigation has resulted in the arrest and conviction of five of the six co-conspirators with sentences ranging from 22 months in federal prison to three years of probation with a combined restitution exceeding $470,000 to the victims. A sixth co-conspirator remains a fugitive. In addition to Ninja Video, IOS phase one also targeted eight other websites selling counterfeit merchandise in New York.Previous website seizures include:
- First phase: 9 domain names
- Second phase: 83 domain names
- Third phase: 10 domain names
- Fourth phase: 18 domain names
- Fifth phase: 5 domain names
- Sixth phase: 17 domain names
- Seventh phase: 58 domain names
- Eight phase: 156 domain names
- Ninth phase: 10 domain names
- Tenth phase: 385 domain names
- Salt Lake City: 7 domain names
- Sustained Effort: 11 domain names
These cases are part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric 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. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.
US Government Seizes More Domains In Operation In Our Sites
Seven domain names were seized in an operation by US government authorities as well as more than $896,000 in proceeds from the distribution of counterfeit sports apparel as the result of an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods on commercial websites.The operation, by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the Department of Justice took the number of domain names seized in similar operations to a total of 758 for websites engaged in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works in Operation In Our Sites, the agencies announced Tuesday.The most recent operation also saw the seizure of more than $896,000 in proceeds from the alleged criminal activities from interbank accounts and three PayPal accounts.The investigation by ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a result of Operation In Our Sites, which targets online commercial intellectual property crime, and began in June 2010. Operation In Our Sites targets online retailers for a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses and DVD boxed sets.”Counterfeiting and intellectual property theft are seriously undermining U.S. business and innovation,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Consumers are at risk, American industry is harmed and U.S. jobs are lost. As a country, we can ill afford the toll that intellectual property theft exacts on our economy and industries. Operation In Our Sites and the related efforts of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center are critical to combating intellectual property crime and consumer fraud over the Internet.”According to court documents, investigation by federal law enforcement officers revealed that several subjects whose domain names had been seized in a November 2010 through Operation In Our Sites continued to sell counterfeit goods using new domain names. In particular, the individuals, based in China, sold counterfeit professional and collegiate sports apparel, primarily counterfeit sports jerseys. Law enforcement officers made numerous undercover purchases from the websites associated with the new domain names. After the goods were confirmed to be counterfeit or infringing, seizure warrants for seven domain names used to sell the goods were obtained from a U.S. magistrate judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.The individuals conducted sales and processed payments for the counterfeit goods using PayPal accounts and then wired their proceeds to bank accounts held at Chinese banks. Pursuant to warrants issued by a U.S. district judge, law enforcement officers seized $826,883 in proceeds that had been transferred from PayPal accounts to various bank accounts in China. The funds were seized from correspondent, or interbank, accounts held by the Chinese banks in the United States. Pursuant to additional seizure warrants issued by a U.S. magistrate judge, law enforcement officers also seized $69,504 in funds remaining in three PayPal accounts used by the subjects.”We are working hard to protect American businesses and consumers from the damaging effects of intellectual property crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “This investigation disrupted an online counterfeit goods operation, and also struck at the heart of the criminal enterprise by seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits. The Justice Department, together with our partners at ICE, will continue to do all that we can to punish and deter the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods.””Those who traffic in counterfeit goods harm the American economy as well as the consumers who purchase the substandard merchandise,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Seizing the domain names of these unscrupulous operators was one big step, and seizing their ill-gotten proceeds should send them another message that these counterfeit sales will not be tolerated.”The investigation was conducted by the IPR Center and HSI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Hooks and Diane Lucas, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Wagner of the District of Columbia; Senior Trial Attorney Pamela Hicks of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Trial Attorney Thomas Dougherty of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.HSI manages the IPR Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.