As part of an international operation, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) seized 33,654 domain names distributing counterfeit and pirated items online. This takes the total to more than one million that have been seized in the past 12 months.
The websites distrusted items such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, pirated films, television shows, music, software, electronics and other bogus products. The joint international operation also involved the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and law enforcement authorities from 26 countries including EU Member States and third parties, which was facilitated by INTERPOL.
Operation In Our Sites (IOS) is a continuation of a recurrent joint global operation, which was launched in 2014 and has since significantly increased. The ninth edition of this worldwide operation in 2018 saw an even larger range of anti-counterfeiting associations, brand owner representatives and law enforcement authorities taking part to facilitate international cooperation and support the countries involved in this initiative. This year’s operation IOS IX has seen a remarkable increase from the previous edition, where 20 520 domain names were seized as they were illegally trading counterfeit merchandise online.
This is a result of Europol’s comprehensive approach to make the internet a safer place for consumers by encouraging more countries and private-sector partners to participate in this operation and provide referrals.
In the United States, the operation was facilitated by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), a joint-task force agency led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“The IPR Center is committed to supporting enforcement actions that target copyright-infringing websites threatening the health and safety of unsuspecting consumers by offering dangerous counterfeit goods,” said IPR Center Director Alex Khu. “Collaborative efforts with external law enforcement agencies and industry have led to a crackdown on intellectual property theft that negatively impacts economies and funds organizations involved in other criminal activities.”
In addition to the seized domain names, officials also arrested 12 suspects, blocked hardware devices, identified and froze more than EUR 1 million in several bank accounts, online payment platforms and a virtual currency farm used by the organised criminal groups.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gave an example of how an investigation based in Louisiana led to the seizure of five website domain names – including Chinaseatbelt.com, Airbagpart.com, Chinasafetybelt.com, Fareurope.com and Far-europe.com – involved in the sale of fake automotive parts. A joint case between HSI and Department of Defense investigative agencies resulted in the removal of PRBlogics.com, a copyright-infringing website offering counterfeit integrated sensors.
Europol, in cooperation with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), continues to enhance such efforts by successfully supporting many high-priority investigations related to online crimes, providing training related to online investigations, and organising conferences such as the annual Intellectual Property Crime Conference.
To continuously raise awareness of this growing threat, Europol’s IPC3 launched the campaign “Don’t F***(ake) Up”. The campaign informs citizens of the risks of buying fake products online and provides forthright advice to help identify illicit websites that sell counterfeit goods, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts and fake apps.