FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AG THURSDAY, MAY 8, 1997 (202) 616-2771 TDD (202) 514-1888
Operation "Counter Copy" Nets Thirty-five Indictments in April
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation today released the first results of a nationwide law enforcement effort to crack down on trademark and copyright fraud, which is estimated to cost American businesses millions of dollars each year and cheat unsuspecting consumers who purchase counterfeit products.
As a result of the joint effort, called Operation "Counter Copy," 35 indictments were returned since the beginning of April for copyright or trademark infringement. Three individuals have been convicted for conspiracy and trafficking in trademark infringing products, and an additional eight pleaded guilty to more than 20 counts of criminal trademark or copyright violations during the month of April.
"Operation Counter Copy sends a strong message to major counterfeiters and copyright pirates all across the U.S.--you will be investigated, prosecuted, and if convicted, sent to jail," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Every consumer should be confident that what they are buying is the real thing."
The cases included counterfeit goods appearing to be made by companies such as NIKE, Calvin Klein and Guess, and other producers of brand named goods, such as Chanel, Coach and Dooney & Bourke. Copyright cases involved pirated video cassettes, audio cassettes, and computer software.
Federal law enforcement warned consumers and businesses about the kinds of things to look out for when making purchases so as not to fall victim to counterfeit products.
The FBI's Economic Crimes Unit said that purchasers should be wary of the following when purchasing clothes, shoes, purses, tapes, and other goods: poor viewing and sound quality of tapes; no brand name, non-glossy or uneven labels on tapes; poor quality workmanship on clothes; and labels cut or torn out of a garment.
The Bureau said that one of the biggest indicators that a product may be counterfeit is the cost of an item. A person will not be able to purchase a quality name brand item at a very low price. If it's too cheap to be true, it's probably forged, the Bureau added.
Intellectual property is vital to the U.S. economy. The major copyright industries, including motion picture, sound recording and computer software, as well as manufacturers of "brand name" clothing and accessories, account for billions of dollars of the gross national product, and employ millions of Americans. It is estimated that these industries sustain about $2.8 billion in losses annually to copyright infringement and product counterfeiting in the U.S.
The international problem is even greater, according to industry groups, which estimate that piracy outside the U.S. cost the major copyright industries approximately $20 billion in 1996 alone.
"Operation Counter Copy sets a good example for other countries interested in stemming the tide of criminal intellectual property rights violations," said Robert M. Bryant, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.
To address the problem, the Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Customs Service is placing increasing emphasis on the investigation and prosecution of trademark and copyright infringement, while U.S. diplomatic efforts have increasingly focused on encouraging other countries to make efforts to control rampant piracy overseas.
Operation "Counter Copy," which was initiated in October 1996, is an ongoing part of law enforcement's increasing efforts to address criminal violations of intellectual property rights.
Indicative of this emphasis is the creation of the "Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section" in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, which includes as part of its mission the coordination of the federal criminal enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Descriptions of the cases brought during the month of April are attached.
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