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Intellectual Property Rights
12/20/2012

Houston HSI seizes 89 websites selling counterfeit goods

HOUSTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Thursday that it seized 89 website domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting consumers.

The 89 domain names were seized as part of Project Cyber Monday, an operation coordinated by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. This brings the total number of domain names seized for Cyber Monday to 190. This is the third year that the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products online in conjunction with Cyber Monday.

These domain names were designed to entice shoppers looking to purchase well-known brand-name goods. The consumers were then redirected to a host website, which was set up to dupe consumers into buying counterfeit goods as part of their holiday shopping. The seized domain names are now in HSI custody. Those seized websites now show a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of trafficking in counterfeit goods and services.

"Websites are valuable assets that are critical to the success of companies competing for business today," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "Unfortunately, they can also be manipulated to support illegal activity. These website seizures by HSI special agents represent a 21st century response to this 21st century problem."

The seizure of these 89 websites is part of operation "In Our Sites" (IOS). IOS is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began more than two years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. Under IOS, 1,719 domain names have been seized since the operation began in June 2010. Since that time, the seizure banner has received more than 112 million individual views.

Of these previously seized domain names, more than 690 have been forfeited to the U.S. government. The federal forfeiture process affords individuals who have an interest in seized domain names a period of time after a "Notice of Seizure" to file a petition with a federal court, and additional time after a "Notice of Forfeiture" to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become the property of the U.S. government.

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's 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 (IP) theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.