By Scott Gelin and G Roxanne Elings*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

It has never been easier for sellers of counterfeit goods to avoid getting caught. The Internet is particularly well suited for anonymity, and counterfeiters readily take advantage of the Internet’s cloaking abilities. Counterfeiters are able to register domain names, operate web stores that sell counterfeit goods and/or sell counterfeit goods on third party auction platforms, accept and process credit card payments, and ship these illicit goods directly to customers, all without revealing their true identities to consumers, who often think they are buying the real thing, or to brand owners who might try to stop them.

But if brand owners cannot catch the actual counterfeiters and make them pay, why not pursue the selling platforms, credit card processors, shippers, and Internet service providers who make these counterfeit sales possible? After all, these entities garner fees when counterfeiters use their services to sell and distribute fake goods. Also, these service providers may know the counterfeiters’ true identities and be in the best position to make them stop. Another advantage for brand owners to focus on service providers rather than the counterfeiters themselves is that the former are generally easier to locate and often have deeper pockets.