They are sites whose operators for many years have illegally sold a wide range of counterfeit Swiss watches. For a long time these sites have topped the list on search engines and placed ads on social networks to increase awareness of their activities still further.
Hundreds of thousands of timepieces have been sold around the world through these virtual shop windows since 2006. The FH Internet Unit – set up in 2005 to combat the sale of counterfeit products on the web – has worked from the outset to close down these sites by sending large numbers of formal notifications to the different technical intermediaries responsible for putting them online. The counterfeiters however, being extremely well versed in each country’s legislative weaknesses, have so far always found a way of keeping their sites in business.
Now the situation has changed. In 2012 the Internet Unit and some of its members introduced a new type of procedure, which consists in seizing the domain names used by the counterfeiters so that the sites are no longer accessible.
Regarding the protection of intellectual property, each country offers the possibility of invoking interim measures aimed at bringing an immediate end to attacks on protected rights (trademarks, designs, patents or copyright). But because such measures are temporary, it is extremely difficult to obtain them in one country and then have them carried out in another. Since the Internet is principally governed by the United States and generally subject to American law, proceedings need to be instituted in that country. This means that provisional measures in respect of domain names can be enforced directly through Verisign, an American company that serves as a register for the generic extensions .com and .net. In this way, an American court can enjoin Verisign to transfer domain names in favour of the holder whose rights are being infringed.
This relatively recent approach has allowed the Internet Unit to de-activate once and for all not only the four sites mentioned above, but also 113 other equally nefarious sites. On these Internet links you will now find a preventive message drawing consumers’ attention to the problem of counterfeiting, with reference to special information pages on the official FH website.
The seizure of domain names is therefore a further addition to the weaponry available to the Internet Unit and is particularly effective against well-established counterfeit sites that are difficult to deactivate by other means. Accompanied by the usual methods of tracking down and closing social network profiles, this new approach hits counterfeiters where it hurts, requiring them to begin anew all the work of referencing and media coverage of their site. It marks another victory for the FH in its effort to stamp out counterfeiting.