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June 22, 2016Washington, DC, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE empowers industry to protect online marketplace

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s head intellectual property rights enforcer told representatives from the Senate Finance Committee last week that the agency had launched initiatives and backed external efforts that empower industry to protect the online marketplace against counterfeit goods.

National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) Director Bruce Foucart said the ICE-led organization was working closely with industry in order to crackdown on online piracy during a hearing titled, “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Business in the Digital Age”, which included participation from UPS and Belkin.

“We’ve developed a procedure that would inform industry of what’s required to shut down copyright infringing sellers on various online marketplaces,” Foucart said. “And, we’ve joined with specific coalitions which intend to monitor online pharmacies and help digital advertisers avoid collaborating with websites engaged in piracy.”

Operation In Our Sites is the major effort ICE investigators, industry and international law enforcement conduct in order to eliminate copyright infringing websites selling counterfeit goods that may threaten the health and safety of consumers. Once a website is criminally seized the domain name is redirected to an anti-piracy banner sponsored by various federal law enforcement agencies. Last year, the IPR Center created a civil seizure banner that industry can use should they seize illegal websites through legal action. The informational banner displays an anti-piracy warning with instructions on how to report potential IPR violations.

In addition, the IPR Center created a report that details established protocols industry can use should they identify the illegal sale of counterfeit goods on various ecommerce and social media platforms. The brief highlights the procedural reporting steps for all major online marketplaces operating from the United States, China and Latin America. The anti-counterfeiting agency also fully supports industry initiatives to protect consumers and develop anti-piracy solutions.

The Verified Top-Level Domain Consortium is a group dedicated to creating a more secure, vibrant, trustworthy Internet by providing consumers additional safety and protection. Online pharmacies, banks and medical-service websites can register and receive verification from the organization, which essentially informs shoppers that the website only sells legit goods. The online sellers would be provided a unique domain name, which currently include .pharmacy, .band and .med.

“The IPR Center supports the efforts of the new Verified Top-Level Domain Consortium working to secure domain names,” Foucart said. “Safety seals and logos can be faked online, but the .pharmacy domain is only available to safe, legal pharmacies. It’s like baking the seal of legitimacy into the domain name itself.”

IPR Center leadership has also thrown its support behind the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), which was created to focus on eliminating fraudulent digital advertising traffic, combating malware, fighting ad-supported Internet piracy to promote brand integrity and promoting brand safety through greater transparency. Representatives from ICE and the FBI recently attended TAG’s first Malware Summit, which brought together industry leaders to discuss vulnerabilities in digital advertising that could harm consumers.

Founded in 2000, the IPR Center – formally codified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 – is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to 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.

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