Enforcing IP Rights

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Counterfeiting is a criminal offence in the UK under Section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994.

Together with copyright theft (a criminal offence under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) they are known as 'IP crime'.

Its increasingly global, organised and web-based nature means that the traditional way of dealing with it here in the UK — as a national consumer problem — is no longer viable.

Back in 2009, the OECD estimated that international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods accounted for USD 250 billion in 2007, which is larger than the national GDPs of 150 economies and its continuing organised and web-based, global growth means that traditionals way of dealing with it as a national consumer problem here in the UK is no longer viable.

The European Commission reports that producing countries are predominantly third world or emerging economies, while the prime consumers of fakes are Europe (particularly the UK) and North America. Eradicating this crime requires a coordinated global response with each target country playing an active, particularly major source countries, such as China.  

The World Customs Organisation, Interpol and Europol all have counterfeiting in their remits, working together, and with the USA's Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE,) which hosts the multi-agency IPR.

The European Commission has major concerns regarding counterfeiting and piracy and IPR enforcement. Notably DG TAXUD, DG MARKT and DG TRADE have taken a lead. However, their work programmes are now being assisted through the EU Observatory, which is based at the EU Intellectual Property Office. The Observatory is taking a major lead on developing greater understanding and building tools and programmes to assist the protection and enforcement of IP rights. 

In the UK, primary responsibility for enforcing the criminal provisions of the Trade Marks Act 1994 is still trading standards. Its departments are attached to most of the local authorities in the UK. However, due to the increasing involvement of organised criminal networks in counterfeiting and piracy and its strong links to other forms of criminality, police agencies have increasingly become involved, not only to TS (who have no powers of arrest) but also in leading major criminal investigations such as Operation Blackout

In reflection of this the Home Office has published its Serious and Organised Crime Strategy 2013 which includes clear references to the growing risks and impacts associated with IP crime.  

At the frontier, the Border Force - which is now under the control of the Home Office - is responsible for preventing the importation of counterfeit goods, managing operational issues via a new centralised tasking and coordination process with HM Revenue & Customs. These IPR enforcement powers are now wholly derived from the EU Customs Regulation, rather than national legislation see Regulation (EU) No 608/2013.

The National Crime Agency launched in October 2013 as an operational crime-fighting agency and IP crime is included in its priorities for the Economic Crime Command, one of four commands for dealing with organised crime in the UK and internationally.