Feds crack down on 70 websites for copyright, trademark infringement

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

The federal government has cracked down on more than 70 websites that were allegedly selling counterfeit items that violated the trademarks of legitimate businesses and cheated unsuspecting consumers.

The sting was part of the ongoing Project Copy Cat, a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Project Copy Cat is meant to preserve the intellectual property assets of U.S. companies and to keep U.S. consumers from unwittingly buying imitation items when they think they are getting the real thing.

What was unusual about this sting is that the sites that were targeted were not selling items that customers should reasonably have known weren’t real, like the obviously-fake Rolexes or clearly imitation Chanel bags you sometimes see around Miami. Instead, they were “highly sophisticated” sites that were meant to dupe customers into thinking that they were getting the real thing. Customers were paying nearly face value for fake items that were purported to be from luxury retailers like Burberry, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton.

Many of the sites were operated out of China and nearly all of them sold Chinese-made goods. An official who worked on Operation Copy Cat said that assistance from Chinese authorities remains uneven, but on the whole is improving.
The owners of the websites do have a chance to redeem themselves by arguing in court that they were indeed selling authentic items, but a Project Copy Cat official said he doesn’t expect that they will exercise this right because counterfeiters rarely bother with such steps.

Source: Agence France Presse, “70 more websites seized in US copyright crackdown,” Rob Lever, July 12, 2012