U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and European officials have seized 132 websites today for allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise in a coordinated crackdown timed to coincide with the holiday shopping season. These websites were said to have been set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operation was coordinated by the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. It is the third straight year that the government has seized websites on “Cyber Monday” — the marketing term for the Monday after Thanksgiving, when many online retailers offer steep discounts and promotions. Under the current system, the authorities confiscate the websites as asset forfeiture, much like police might seize a drug dealer’s car after arresting him. But some advocates argue the website owners should have a chance to defend themselves before the site is shut down. 1,630 sites have been taken down since the operation began in June 2010.
“This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center,” said ICE Director John Morton. “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.”