- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have executed seizure orders against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in what the agency called the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and ICE Director John Morton said the coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.

During the operation, they said, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. In many instances, they said, the goods were shipped directly to the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail.

“By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain,” Mr. Holder said. “Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs.

“The Justice Department, with the help of our law enforcement partners, is changing the perception that these crimes are risk-free with enforcement actions like the one announced today,” he said.

Mr. Morton said the sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet “steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers.

“The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for Homeland Security investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center” (IPR) he said. “We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when counterfeit goods are trafficked.”

The new law enforcement initiative is an extension of Operation in Our Sites I, which was announced in June. In that first action, law enforcement authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies.

The nationwide operation was spearheaded by the (IPR) Center, led by ICE in coordination with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of Justice’s Criminal Division and nine U.S. Attorneys’ offices, including in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Holder and Mr. Morton noted that the IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. They said the enforcement actions announced Monday were an example of the type of efforts being undertaken by the Justice Department’s Task Force on Intellectual Property - created by Mr. Holder to “combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work.”

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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