The Department of Justice (DOJ) seized over $1.5 million in proceeds from the distribution and sale of counterfeit sports apparel on illegal commercial websites. In addition to this seized capital, the DOJ seized three domain names. Counterfeit apparel plagues any brand owner and robs the purchaser of quality goods. The online policing necessary to protect a brand and its purchasers is costly and time consuming. US law enforcement has risen to the challenge to assist brand owners and authorized producers of these goods. In-house methods are not always sufficient, and counsel should take advantage of government initiatives to combat this counterfeit and online infringement.
This most recent seizure is a result of the continued and successful efforts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Homeland Security Investigations, operation dubbed “In Our Sites.” To date, this operation has taken down over 750 domain names used in the sale and distribution of illegal copyright and counterfeit goods.
“The seizures we are announcing today are another step forward in our efforts to disrupt and disable those engaged in intellectual property crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “By seizing the domain names and profits of online counterfeit goods operations, we are protecting consumers and sending a message to criminals that we will use every tool at our disposal to stop them.”
After the goods were purchased, to authenticate them as counterfeit, a US Magistrate Judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia authorized warrants for the three domain names used to distribute the apparel.
ICE Director Morton stated “Operation In Our Sites and the tireless work of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center protect consumers from fraud on the Internet and combat intellectual property theft which exacts a toll on our economy and industries.” This is one of the efforts by a DOJ task force on intellectual property protection. Brand managers can rest assured that the burden will not fall completely on them to police the internet for infringing goods and counterfeits.
According to the DOJ website, the “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.”
We all need a little help from our friends, and in this case, it is a joint task force of government agencies, protecting both consumers and brand owners. Operation “In Our Sites” is now in our sites, and we thank you.