June 27 2013
Good news for trademark owners and those fighting counterfeit goods! Authorities in the U.S. and European Union have seized 328 domain names associated with sites selling counterfeit goods including fake Nike and Tiffany & Co. products. As part of the operation, authorities made numerous undercover purchases from the websites purporting to sell genuine designer goods. Once the trademark holders confirmed the goods were counterfeit, authorities obtained seizure orders from federal magistrate judges and shut them down! In addition to the domain name seizures, officials seized $150,000 in PayPal accounts used by the infringing websites.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said, “It is important to stop the sale of counterfeit products over the Internet as it undermines legitimate businesses and also often causes health and safety risks to consumers. This successful transatlantic operation sends an important message to the criminals, showing them that they cannot hide despite the fact that they are operating via the Internet.”
We all know the nasty business that goes on in the murky world of counterfeits - slave labour, drug trafficking, terrorism, and let’s not forget the jackets made with animal faeces - yet the industry continues to thrive. The past decade has seen an explosion in the counterfeit goods industry and it is now estimated that 20% of clothing and shoes are counterfeit. The anonymity that the internet affords sellers of counterfeit goods, along with technological developments in the manufacturing process, have created unprecedented enforcement challenges for authorities. The trade in counterfeit goods is now a multi-billion pound industry and is estimated to be worth £1.3 billion in the UK alone, the majority of which is sold online. Online counterfeit websites can disappear at the press of a button making it impossible to catch and stop many of the sellers. Unfortunately for many trademark owners, the more valuable a trademark becomes, the more susceptible it is to counterfeiting. Ironically, the signature monogram canvas trademarked by Louis Vuitton was created to prevent counterfeiting yet today Louis Vuitton fakes account for 18% of counterfeit accessories seized in the European Union. Let’s hope the authorities continue to locate and shut down the websites. Remember – Fakes Are Never In Fashion!!