Federal authorities have seized 150 Web domain names they said were used to traffic counterfeit brand-name merchandise.
The website seizures targeted the illegal sales of counterfeit products, including professional sports jerseys, golf equipment, DVDs, shoes, handbags and sunglasses, authorities said Monday.
Visitors to the sites now find a banner that says the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and that copyright infringement is a federal crime.
During the investigation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of products from online retailers, officials said. In most cases, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries.
If the trademark holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods and associated websites were obtained from federal judges, authorities said.
"The sale of counterfeit goods cheats consumers and robs legitimate businesses — both large and small — of the fruits of their hard-earned work," said Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer, who oversees the Justice Department's criminal division. "We will not tolerate those who seek to profit by abusing the Internet and stealing intellectual property at the expense of authors, artists and inventors. The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively to combat intellectual property crime."
The seizures were part of an ongoing investigation dubbed Operation in Our Sites, which targeted online counterfeiting and piracy. Since its launch in 2010, authorities have seized 350 domain names that were allegedly used to sell counterfeit goods.