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Feds seize 132 domain names to stop knockoff sales

Homeland Security agents in Baltimore joined colleagues in six other states and several foreign countries in a Cyber Monday crackdown to seize 132 domain names to stop them from selling counterfeit merchandise online.

Authorities said it was the third consecutive Cyber Monday that they had targeted websites selling knockoff sports jerseys, DVDs and other goods. They said the sites — 101 in the United States and 31 overseas — were seized after copyright holders confirmed that products purchased there by investigators were illegal.

Visitors to the sites — cheap-jordans-china.com, for example — now see a banner explaining the seizure and copyright infringement.

“This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win.”

During the operation, undercover agents bought a host of products including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright holders confirmed they were counterfeit, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold them were obtained from federal magistrate judges.

In addition to the domain name seizures, officials identified PayPal accounts utilized by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts, in excess of $175,000, are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating HSI field offices.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity to work closely with HSI to shut down criminals targeting our customers and our brand just as the holiday season takes off,” said Tod Cohen, vice president and deputy general counsel of Government Relations for eBay Inc., in a statement issued through ICE. “PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and we hope that this is fair warning to criminals that the Internet is not a safe place to try and sell fake goods.”

Of the 1,529 domain names seized before this week’s operation, 684 have now been forfeited to the U.S. government. The federal forfeiture process does allow for an appeal if persons who have an interest in seized domain names wish to contest the seizure.

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