U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and several law enforcement agencies in Europe, coordinated by Europol, announced the seizure of 328 domain names today. The seized websites were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.
During ‘Operation In Our Sites’ (IOS) - also known as ‘Transatlantic 2’ - HSI seized 177 domain names which targeted websites selling counterfeit trademark merchandise manufactured by American owned companies. Europol participated in Project Transatlantic 2 along with several European Member States such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom, resulting in the final execution of coordinated seizures of 151 foreign-based top-level domains such as .be, .eu, .fr, .ro, and .uk.
“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.”
The IPR Center and Europol received leads from various trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to HSI field offices and to the investigating Europol Member States including Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“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,” said Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
In addition to the domain name seizures, officials identified PayPal accounts utilised by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts, in excess of USD 30 000, are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating HSI field offices.
The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will now find a banner (example below) that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about intellectual property crimes.