"In the meantime, if you want to prevent that site from continuing operation, you can actually get a court order instead, get an injunction, instead of going through a seizure procedure," he said.
Affidavits in the case, however, which argued that the websites violated federal laws against the trafficking of counterfeit goods, contended that a restraining order or injunction blocking use of the websites while a case was tried would be an "insufficient" solution. Only an outright seizure would prevent "third parties from acquiring the name and using it to commit additional crimes," one affidavit said.
Horton said counterfeit drugs threaten public safety and must be pursued aggressively, and Bitter Pill is far from over.
"We'll be working with our headquarters office and the IPR Center over the next few months to pursue additional leads because I'm sure there's going to be spinoffs," he said. "If you don't get to the folks behind the actual websites, then others will pop up, so it's a constant challenge."
Horton said that because the investigation is continuing, he could not discuss pending arrests in the case or what quantities of drugs were purchased to facilitate the drug testing in the case. He also declined to say how many operations were targeted, but acknowledged that not every website address seized constituted an independent operation.
Apart from falling under the international operation, in its fifth year and called Pangea V, Bitter Pill was also part of a sustained U.S.-based law enforcement initiative known as Operation In Our Sites, which began two years ago. The websites seized Wednesday bring the total number of sites seized by the domestic operation to 1,525. Individuals who have an interest in the websites can file a petition in federal court to contest the seizures.
Visitors to the seized websites will now be shown a banner image saying that the website has been seized and explaining that knowingly trafficking counterfeit goods is a federal crime carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines, forfeitures and restitution.