A collective of enforcement agencies around the world joined forces recently to seize 132 domain names selling counterfeit goods as part of specific consumer protection operations. Dubbed "Project Cyber Monday" and "Project Transatlantic," the programs are part of a larger effort called Operation In Our Sites (IOS), which is responsible for 1,630 domain name seizures since its launch in June 2010.
For the third year in a row, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) coordinated this joint effort around Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day of the year. Of the 132 domain names, 101 were seized as part of Project Cyber Monday, while an additional 31 were taken through Project Transatlantic.
Officers from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, Europol, and law enforcement agencies in France, Denmark, the UK, Belgium, and Romania made undercover purchases on websites suspected of selling counterfeit goods. Once copyright holders determined that the products purchased were counterfeit or illegal, authorities seized the domain names that sold the products. Associated PayPal accounts revealed more than $175,000 in received funds, which the same officers are currently working on gaining control of.
This news comes in the wake of the publication of the latest MarkMonitor Shopping Report, which revealed that one in five online bargain hunters has accidentally shopped on a website selling counterfeit goods. The report describes how shoppers simply looking for low prices on specific products are often duped by websites passing counterfeit goods off as legitimate wares. The report demonstrates the magnitude of the problem that programs like Project Cyber Monday look to address, as MarkMonitor reports that brand owners lost more than $200 billion to online brand abuse last year alone.
For every brand owner, it is critical to have a proactive reclaim strategy in order to protect both the brand itself and its customers online. Brand owners should also be reactive where necessary – prioritizing valuable reclaim opportunities and pursuing them via UDRP or other effective actions.
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