The U.S. seized 150 domain names of websites that were selling counterfeit goods -- such as bogus Ugg boots and Nike sneakers -- in an effort to crack down on retailers violating intellectual property laws, authorities said.
Law enforcement agencies announced the seizures today to coincide with the “Cyber Monday” online shopping day. Shoppers visiting the seized sites now see a banner saying authorities have taken over the websites.
“For these criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers,” John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.
The seizures are part of a continuing operation that started in June 2010. On last year’s “Cyber Monday,” authorities seized 82 domain names.
To go after potential violators, federal agents made undercover purchases of products that included sports jerseys, handbags, sunglasses and shoes, said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, in a conference call with reporters.
Footwear falsely marketed as authentic Nike, Puma and Reebok products were among items sold on the sites, Morton said on the conference call.
“In reality, these products were only knockoffs and mere imitations of the real things,” Breuer said.
Merchandise From China
The “vast majority” of the targeted websites operate overseas and the merchandise is “predominantly from China,” Morton said.
Websites selling counterfeit merchandise are becoming “increasingly sophisticated,” making it harder to distinguish legitimate and illegitimate online retailers, Morton said.
“If the price is way too good to be true, it probably is,” Morton said.
The U.S. House and Senate are considering legislation to combat foreign websites that traffic in stolen and counterfeit goods and content. The measures would give the attorney general power to seek court orders requiring U.S. Internet-service providers, search engines, payment processors and ad networks to block or cease business with such websites.