Counterfeit Web Sites Seized in Trans-Atlantic Takedown

Joint operation between U.S. and EU agencies shuts down 328 domain names.

WASHINGTON — Authorities in the U.S. and European Union seized 328 domain names associated with Web sites selling everything from counterfeit Nike and Tiffany & Co. products to National Football League merchandise in two joint operations on Wednesday.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit joined several law enforcement agencies in Europe, coordinated by the European Police Office, in the two operations. One, dubbed “Project American Icons” resulted in the seizure of 177 domain names for Web sites selling counterfeit trademark goods manufactured by U.S.-owned companies. As part of that operation, authorities made numerous undercover purchases from nine U.S. trademark holders from the sites, including Nike, Tiffany, NFL, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League merchandise. Once the trademark holders confirmed the goods were counterfeit, authorities obtained seizure orders from federal magistrate judges.

In the second operation, dubbed “Project Transatlantic Two,” Europol participated along with several European member states such as Belgium, France, Romania and the U.K., and seized 151 foreign-based domains.

Both operations were coordinated by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington.

“American Icon/Transatlantic Two is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE, our international partners at the IPR Center and the Department of Justice,” said Mark Witzal, deputy director of the IPR Center. “In order to go after these criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world, these international partnerships are vitally important. Counterfeiting is a global problem that affects us all.”

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said, “It is important to stop the sale of counterfeit products over the Internet as it undermines legitimate businesses and also often causes health and safety risks to consumers. This successful transatlantic operation sends an important message to the criminals, showing them that they cannot hide despite the fact that they are operating via the Internet.”

In addition to the domain name seizures, officials seized $150,000 in PayPal accounts used by the infringing Web sites.