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Product Watch: New Service Shuts Down Counterfeit-Brand Websites

An estimated $135 billion worth of counterfeit and pirated goods will be sold online in 2010, according to MarkMonitor
A new service rolled out today will shut down illicit Websites posing as a real brand or offering counterfeit and pirated products.

MarkMonitor's new Site Staydown Service evolved out of the company's anti-phishing operations center, which watches for financial fraud against its clients. "We're taking action on behalf of our clients" to shut down the offending Websites, says Fred Felman, CMO of MarkMonitor.

The company estimates that $135 billion worth of counterfeit and pirated goods will be sold online in 2010, with companies losing around $133 billion last year to these scams. To date, there has been little victims could do except respond long after the damage was done, and even then the scammers often come back online at another site if theirs eventually gets shut down, experts say.

Major apparel, transportation, and footwear companies participated in a pilot of the new Site Staydown Service, in which more than illicit 100 sites were taken down for selling goods purportedly from the real brand name.

Deborah Greaves, secretary and general counsel for True Religion Brand Jeans, said in a statement that online counterfeiters are difficult to catch, mainly due to the legal limitations of their international scope. "An option like the Site Staydown Service from MarkMonitor provides an effective alternative for brand owners to shut down infringing sites quickly, protecting consumers and reducing the profit potential for fraudsters," she said.

Some Websites basically turn a blind eye to the sale of counterfeit or pirated products, MarkMonitor's Felman says. "In a lot of cases, the site owners are unresponsive ... and there's no way to take direct, legal action," he says. "It's better to contact the ISP or registrar, but if you can't notify them or find them, the illegal activity's damage is done, and the damage to consumers is already done. Rather than go on indefinitely, we wanted to see what proactive action we could take for the stakeholders."

MarkMonitor's takedown service -- which is part of its MarkMonitor Brand Protection service -- makes the appropriate contacts to take down the illicit content or the Website itself, and then continues to monitor whether the URL is reinstated. "If it comes back, work again with the ISP or registrar" to take it down again, he says.

Pricing for the service depends on the length of time the monitoring service is set up, as well as the number of sites that it takes down. "Starting with a package of 10 shutdowns, it would be in the low five figures for a year of monitoring," Felman says.

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