The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized ten internet domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit cycling equipment and apparel.
All the seized domain names are now in the custody of the U.S. government and anyone who types the URL into their web browsers will find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of trafficking counterfeit goods.
Houston HSI special agents worked closely with manufacturers of cycling products, as well as PayPal and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The enforcement action was planned against a number of websites that were selling counterfeit high-end carbon bike frames, clothing and shoes.
The counterfeit items were targeted towards cyclists of all levels who shop online and many may have unwittingly purchased products thinking they were getting a good deal but in fact received counterfeit goods, which breached the trademarks of their manufacturers.
Brian Moskowitz, the special agent in charge of Houston HSI, said: “The seizure of these domain names is an important tool in HSI’s continuing efforts to protect the consumer from sub-par and dangerous goods.”
“HSI special agents are also committed to protecting the rights of businesses that play by the rules so that they can remain competitive and support our economy,” he added.
The website domains were found to be infringing upon the trademark owners’ rights by providing access to counterfeit merchandise that could end up damaging a company’s brand and reputation.
Safety is also an issue with counterfeit goods, as many cycling enthusiasts who purchased what they thought was brand-quality merchandise may experience problems such as poorly made bike carbon frames that could cause serious injury.
Andrew Love, head of brand security at Specialized, said: “Our engineers have tested counterfeit frames in our lab and frankly they don’t hold up. They failed our impact and fatigue tests and the aluminum head tube cups de-bonded, making steering vague and loose – that is simply not safe.”
Officials have also identified PayPal accounts used by the infringing websites and the proceeds received are currently being targeted for seizure by Houston HSI.