WASHINGTON — Congress is going after counterfeit merchandise and pirated products sold online by “rogue Web sites” in a new bill introduced Monday by a bipartisan group of senators.

This story first appeared in the September 21, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the two lead co-sponsors of the legislation, said the bill will crack down on Web sites that primarily engage in online piracy and counterfeiting and are often foreign owned and operated. It would give the Department of Justice an expedited process to clamp down on Web sites dedicated to selling infringing goods and services and counterfeits, give authority to Justice officials to file civil action against domain names repeatedly selling counterfeits or providing online piracy and go after foreign site operators.

The committee is moving quickly on the bill and has scheduled a mark up on Thursday.

“Each year, online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American businesses billions of dollars and result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs,” said Leahy. “The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content, and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.”

Luxury firms and apparel brands have spent millions of dollars battling counterfeiters, and this legislation could give them new tools to go after complicit Web sites.

“The scope of the bill is rogue Web sites, which are the worst of the worst in terms of counterfeiting and infringing products on the Internet,” said Steve Tepp, senior director for Internet Counterfeiting and Piracy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Center.

The flood of counterfeit goods into the U.S. cost legitimate businesses about $250 billion a year in lost revenues and is responsible for the loss of 750,000 jobs annually, according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. In fiscal year 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized $260.7 million worth of fake merchandise, most commonly shoes, accessories and cosmetics.

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