UK law enforcement officers have taken part in an international law enforcement operation that seized 999 websites selling counterfeit merchandise online.
The sixth and largest In Our Sites (IOS) operation tackled the sale of counterfeit goods, trademark infringements and online piracy – copyright infringements – on e-commerce platforms and social networks.
In 2014, IOS operations IV and V seized 188 and 292 websites, respectively, for selling counterfeit goods.
The latest operation was organised and led by Europol and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and involved law enforcement agencies from the UK and 18 other countries.
According ICE, the market is flooded each year with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online.
“The internet has facilitated the sale of counterfeit merchandise online and criminals have taken advantage of the internet to deceive, sell and ship fake products directly to unsuspecting consumers,” ICE said in a statement.
For the first time in operation IOS’s four-year history, Interpol brought its support through Argentina, Chile, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Panama, Peru, South Korea and Thailand.
Europol’s role involved organising, co-ordinating, exchanging and subsequently analysing data among participating countries, and liaising with rights holders from the private sector.
“Co-operation with private industry remains crucial and is key to monitoring and reporting IP-infringing websites to the concerned countries via Europol, to ultimately make the internet a safer place for consumers,” Europol said in a statement.
The participating rights holders represented different sectors including traditional luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals and toiletries.
Europol said Operation IOS VI followed a new format, in line with the European Union (EU) Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, which resulted in the triggering of seven additional operations.
Several new cases are expected to be initiated due to the huge demand from the rights holders in private industry, said Europol.
The EU Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights was adopted in July 2014 and sets out a number of actions to focus the EU’s intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement policy on commercial scale infringements.
The so-called “follow the money” approach is aimed at depriving commercial-scale infringers of IPR of their revenue flows rather than penalising the individual for infringing IPR, often unknowingly.