The 10 seized domain names are a continuation of "Operation In Our Sites" (IOS), an HSI sustained law enforcement initiative that began in 2010. These seized domain names are now in the custody of the U.S. government. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of trafficking in counterfeit goods.
Houston HSI special agents worked closely with companies that manufacture cycling products to include Specialized, INVISTA (owners of the COOLMAX® and LYCRA® brands), along with PayPal and the U.S. Attorney's Office. This enforcement action was planned against a number of websites that were selling counterfeit high-end carbon bike frames, apparel and cycling shoes. These counterfeit items were targeted towards cyclists of all levels who shop online. During the latter part of the investigation, other cycling manufacturers including SRAM, Cervelo and Pinarello, also provided assistance in identifying counterfeit vendors targeting their brands.
"The seizure of these domain names is an important tool in HSI's continuing efforts to protect the consumer from sub-par and dangerous goods," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "HSI special agents are also committed to protecting the rights of businesses that play by the rules so that they can remain competitive and support our economy."
The seized website domains infringed upon the trademark owners' rights by providing access to counterfeit merchandise that could potentially damage a company's reputation. Bike enthusiasts purchasing what they think is brand-name merchandise may experience problems such as badly fitting apparel or counterfeit bike carbon frames that could cause serious injury since they are unsafe to ride. Sales of counterfeit items threaten American jobs nationwide, especially in the bike shop network.
"Our engineers have tested counterfeit frames in our lab and frankly they don't hold up. They failed our impact and fatigue tests and the aluminum head tube cups de-bonded, making steering vague and loose – that is simply not safe," says Andrew Love, head of brand security at Specialized. "The counterfeiters just want to make a sale; they have zero interest in the customer. Our product integrity and rider safety are very personal for us."
In addition to the domain name seizures, officials identified PayPal accounts used by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts, in excess of $90,000, is currently being targeted for seizure by Houston HSI.
"In an effort to provide safe and trusted payments and commerce platforms for our customers, PayPal is proud to partner with law enforcement and rights owners globally in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods," said Tod Cohen, vice president of government relations, eBay Inc.
This operation was spearheaded by the National IPR Center in coordination with Houston HSI. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
For more information, visit: www.iprcenter.gov or call 1-866-IPR-2060.