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U.S. Seizes Websites, Alleges Fake Nike, Coach Sales

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. federal courts have ordered the seizure of 82 websites alleged by authorities to have sold counterfeit goods, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

U.S. federal courts have ordered the seizure of 82 websites alleged by authorities to have sold counterfeit goods, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

In an announcement timed to coincide with so-called Cyber Monday, known as the busiest online shopping day, Holder said the Justice Department is cracking down on websites that peddle fake brand-name goods that violate copyright and other intellectual property laws.

An estimated 100 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday last year, and authorities project a similar number today, said John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Fake products misrepresented as goods from Coach Inc., Walt Disney Co., Oakley Inc., Timberland Co., LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA and Nike Inc. were among items peddled on the sites, the Justice Department said.

“If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Holder said at a news conference in Washington.

The seizure follows actions that began with Operation in Our Sites I in June, the department said. Federal agents made undercover purchases from websites of counterfeit goods such as sports equipment and shoes. Online shoppers today will see a banner saying that U.S. authorities have taken over the websites.

Counterfeit goods result in “billions of dollars” of lost revenue for legitimate businesses and taxes for the government, said Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

‘Not Victimless’

“Intellectual property crimes are not victimless,” Holder said.

Seventy-seven of the websites were based in China, and eight sold copies of movies and television shows, Morton said. Some of these sites are likely to re-emerge under different domain names, although the seizures squeeze the counterfeiters’ sales at the height of shopping season, he said.

“By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain,” Holder said.

Morton said that the “sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers.”

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