It’s a little hard to feel too much sympathy for anyone in Naples who pays $20 for a “genuine Rolex” and later finds out it isn’t real. After all, where’s the common sense in that? But what about someone who goes to a website that for all intents and purposes looks like a legitimate website and pays nearly face value for what later turns out to be a knockoff?

Seventy websites of that nature were recently seized by Project Copy Cat, a joint effort between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Project Copy Cat serves a dual purpose; protecting customers from being scammed and preserving the intellectual property assets, particularly copyrights and trademarks, of U.S. companies.

The websites targeted by this sweep were set up to look they were actual sites affiliated with luxury goods makers like Tiffany, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. The items they sold were priced very close to face value, so all in all, customers did not have much of a reason to think that they were buying fake items. In actuality, many of the sites were unauthorized rip-offs being run out of China that sold fake, Chinese-made goods.

The owners of the websites do have a chance to appear in court and prove that they were selling legitimate items, but an official with Project Copy Cat said he doesn’t expect that to happen because it so rarely does with counterfeiters.

Project Copy Cat was started in 2010. Since then, it has resulted in the seizure of 839 websites and domain names.

Source: Agence France Presse, “70 more websites seized in US copyright crackdown,” Rob Lever, July 12, 2012