EU IP Office: Thousands of e-shops sell counterfeits using formerly legitimate domains

By Ideas Matter

Twenty-seven thousand e-shops have been found selling counterfeit products in four European countries, with the majority of such e-shops using web domains that had previously been registered to other legitimate organisations, including government, business and educational institutions.

In the latest study by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on the business models and practices of online infringement, 27,000 e-shops in Spain, Sweden, the UK and Germany were found to be selling counterfeit shoes and other clothing, and other fake products as diverse as hardware, jewellery and mobile telephones. 

A significant new trend identified in the study is that such sites are buying up and using the internet domains of legitimate former owners that had abandoned those domains.  21,000 of the fake e-shops were found to be using domain names that had been previously registered to others that ranged from commercial sites to public and international organisations, financial and news sites, voluntary, cultural and religious sites, and famous people and fan club sites.

The majority of the fake e-shop sites studied used internet hosting providers in Turkey (25.9%), the Netherlands (19.3%), and the United States (18.3%). 

“This analysis will assist EU enforcement authorities as they reflect on how to tackle the issue of the business structures at the heart of fake e-shops,” said EUIPO Executive Director António Campinos.  “Improving the available intelligence on how counterfeiters operate and do business offers new avenues for companies and enforcers in the fight against counterfeiting in the online environment. This will also bring benefits for consumers.”

For more information and a full copy of the EUIPO’s report, Research on Online Business Models Infringing Intellectual Property Rights – Phase 2, see here.