WASHINGTON — Federal authorizes seized 15,000 illegal web sites and removed 48,000 “erroneous” e-commerce links over the past year.
“Dozens of brand owners and industry organizations representing name-brand footwear and apparel, cosmetics and personal-care products, activewear and sporting and entertainment associations participated in this effort and were solely responsible for targeting listings on popular e-commerce sites selling imitation items,” officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Among the brands participating in this manner were Lululemon, Estée Lauder, Calvin Klein, Lacoste and Burberry, a spokesman for the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center said.
Brands also provide data from their own enforcement activities to the government for formal tallies, the spokesman said.
The crackdown on bogus web sites selling counterfeit products was part of “Operation in Our Sites VII” that involved ICE, Europol, Interpol and members of industry.
The global enforcement action also involved collaboration between law-enforcement authorities from 27 countries and anticounterfeiting groups. Among the countries participating in the global enforcement action were the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Austria, France and Sweden in Europe, as well as Colombia, Canada and Peru.
“The tremendous collaborative efforts between law enforcement and industry prove the Internet is not a safe haven for counterfeiters preying on consumers,” said IPR Center director Bruce Foucart. “Our investigators are committed to bringing online pirates to justice by seizing web sites, working with global police authorities and strengthening relationships with industry partners.”
The number of web sites seized in the past year by industry did not reflect a complete list “because we can only calculate industry data that was provided to us,” the spokesman said.
But “the number of web sites criminally seized from global law enforcement which participated in this effort went up about 300 percent over last year,” he noted.
Web sites that are seized criminally are done by law enforcement following an investigation. Industry has to seize copyright infringing web sites administratively through civil means through the courts, he said.
“Criminals have taken advantage of the Internet to deceive, sell and ship fake products directly to unsuspecting consumers,” ICE said. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal-care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories.
In 2015, the number of seizures of counterfeit products nationally rose 25 percent from the previous year, totaling more than 28,000 seizures with an estimated value of more than $1.3 billion, ICE said.
“While watches and handbags are considered the most counterfeited items, intellectual property thieves will counterfeit any product that can be sold or marketed,” the agency said. “Some of those trends include counterfeit drugs, medical equipment, aircraft and automobile parts, computer hardware, military components and electrical safety devices.”
Federal authorities made 538 arrests, resulting in 357 convictions last year.