On a daily basis, billions of people use the internet to buy and sell goods and services. The booming online economy has created an ideal environment for counterfeiters, whose trade has burgeoned.
The internet has revolutionized the way counterfeiters operate and remains a highly lucrative and sophisticated criminal environment. Counterfeiters are no longer sequestered to selling fake goods through rouge websites. Ecommerce marketplaces and auction sites like Amazon and eBay allow counterfeiters to sell direct to consumers through a global and largely unregulated marketplace.
For websites selling counterfeit merchandise, it’s common practice for the registrant’s name and address on a URL to be fake. Moreover, the warehouse or retail locations are often not revealed, which further conceals the identity of the seller.
The internet allows counterfeiters to reach a global audience faster and with far less economic effort than the off-line world. Between email promotions, social media marketing and digital marketplaces, reaching potential buyers is easier than ever.
In the early days of selling counterfeits online, items were exclusively sold through rouge websites in which the counterfeiter relied on key words and meta tags of brand names to show up in search engine results. Today, the Internet offers innumerable opportunities to attract buyers.
Social media channels enable fraudsters to easily and affordably launch global marketing campaigns. It’s easy to create an account and buy followers to look legitimate. For pennies on the dollar, targeted advertising through platforms like Facebook and Instagram ensure the items appears on interested users’ timelines.
Unfortunately, the Internet is a difficult place to enforce IP rights. Fighting IP infringements is both expensive and complicated. On top of playing whack a mole to shut down rogue websites, brands are now facing the dilemma of fighting fraudulent listings on social media, auction sites and marketplace listings.
Current regulations for auction sites and ecommerce marketplaces do not require these retailers to pre-emptively remove counterfeit listings; they are only required do so when notified by the customer or rights holder.