WASHINGTON — Fashion companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Tory Burch and Chanel teamed up with law enforcement authorities from 27 countries in an online counterfeit operation that shut down 37,479 Web sites over the past year.
The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, led the launch of the synchronized global initiative to take down sites illegally selling counterfeit merchandise.
During the past year and leading up to Cyber Monday, the IPR Center said it and industry partners used criminal and civil actions to seize domain names. Agencies relied heavily on involvement from brand owners from the apparel, footwear, handbag, eyewear, cosmetics, consumer electronics, athletic apparel, sporting goods and personal-care product sectors and the entertainment industry.
“Industry was a major part of this operation,” said a spokesman at the IPR Center. “The brand owners conducted IP enforcement by seizing Web sites through civil action, which ICE has been encouraging because the criminal process can be resource-intensive.”
Other companies that participated included the Estée Lauder Cos., Levi Strauss & Co., Lululemon Athletica, Ralph Lauren, Timberland and Ray-Ban, as well as Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and the Motion Picture Association of America, according to the spokesman.
He said when “Operation In Our Sites” was first launched more than six years ago, the “chokepoint for online piracy” was the seizure of domain names through a criminal process.
“But as the domain names became cheaper and easier to obtain, operators of illegal Web sites would have several additional Web sites ready to launch when we seized one,” he noted. “So, I can’t emphasize enough how important industry is in the fight against online piracy.”
The IPR Center coordinates with the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property and relies on the information from 23-member agencies to develop initiatives and conduct investigations aimed at cracking down on piracy and counterfeiting. It was the sixth year the IPR center worked with international partners, including Europol and Interpol, to target Web sites selling counterfeits online.
“Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online,” ICE said. “The Internet has facilitated the sale of counterfeit merchandise online and criminals have taken advantage of the Internet to deceive, sell and ship fake products directly to unsuspecting consumers.”
According to ICE, the most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal-care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories.