Hundreds of domain names seized by Europol

Domain name image - EuropolNearly 300 domain names have been seized by the European police force for allegedly selling counterfeit goods online.

Europol, together with tens of law enforcement agencies from around the world, have seized 292 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.

The domain names seized are part of project 'In Our Sites (IOS) Transatlantic V'. Since August, Europol and the IPR Center have received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites, which were then circulated to law enforcement authorities in the participating countries.

The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will find either a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the crime of wilful copyright infringement, or the visitors will not be able to access the website anymore.

The most popular counterfeit products concerned include the traditional luxury goods but also sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods such as films and music.

"The infringements of intellectual property rights is a growing problem in our economies and for millions of producers and consumers. Europol is committed to working with its international partners to crack down on the criminal networks responsible for this illegal activity," says Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.

While seizing the websites is only one way of disrupting and hindering the criminals behind the sale of counterfeits on the Internet, law enforcement authorities also now focus increasingly on the 'follow-the-money' approach, in line with the EU Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

The seized domains did not necessarily equate to 292 closed websites, however, as many domains can point to the same operation. It also does not close the website itself, instead just the domain pointing to it, in theory making it harder to access.

Project IOS is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. The 292 domain names seized under Operation IOS V brings the total number of IOS domain names seized to 1,829 since the IOS project began in November 2012.

"Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime," explains NIPRCC acting director Bruce Foucart.

He continues: "Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.

"Counterfeit products being sold online not only rip off the consumer and provide shoddy products, but also put their personal financial information at risk."

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