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ACG Director General's Blog

Thursday 19 December 2019

Dear all, well another festive season is almost upon us and as UK shoppers chase down the best Christmas and New Year deals it gives me the chance to thank everyone in the ACG community for your wonderful support during the year.

I think we can all take a deep breath and agree that it’s been quite a year. A time in which, we have managed to achieve some hugely impressive results, despite an incessant growth in the trade in counterfeit goods and the continuous political and constitutional unrest, which has impacted on our precious enforcement resources. I am really indebted to all our members and of course to our small team for what you have done, together, to combat this insidious crimewave.

However, as 2019 ends it may also be a time to reflect on how big a challenge we are really up against and what we are likely to face next year?

Earlier this year the OECD and European Intellectual Property Office study offered us a clear portrait of the escalating threats, when they confirmed that the worldwide scope and scale of IP crime is now worth $509 billion and that almost 7% of all products imported into the EU are now counterfeit. What’s more is that 37% of these products were confirmed to be dangerous to consumers.

This study was followed up by a further report by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the OECD, which established that the overall UK market in fake goods is now worth £13.6 billion. These most recent results also highlighted that the total value of lost sales, as a result of counterfeits being smuggled into the UK, was over £9 billion. The result was over 60,000 job losses and a £4 billion reduction in UK public revenue.

I have always believed that ACG’s great strength has been our capacity to put differences aside and work together to fight this insidious menace in a far-reaching range of approaches. Here are just a few highlights of our joint successes.

In terms of raising awareness and building education, we have continued to deliver our IP Roadshows, to ensure the widest range of enforcers have the benefit of our members’ expertise and experiences. We have added to this by the introduction of specific training workshops, on brand protection and intelligence management. All have been highly regarded and helped lead us to being invited to become a member of the Home Office Economic Crime Strategic Board. As a result, we had significant input into the United Nations Inter-Regional Crime institute’s strategy on combating transnational crime.

Knowledge building is a key aim for ACG and we have regularly presented and raised awareness at major international summits, universities and high level events, including our own Anti-Illicit Trade workshop, and the UK IPR Protection Summit, which we co-hosted together with the IPO and the Alibaba Group. Besides this, we have increased our media presence and have contributed to numerous high-level initiatives and studies.  We have also concentrated on further developing our connections with UK, European and international associations. These will be vital as we leave the EU, as will our growing global partnerships which include; new alliances with the major EU anti-counterfeiting groups, TRACIT and ACACAP. At home our growing involvement in the UK’s National Consumer Federation’s enforcement group, numerous All-Party Parliamentary Groups and the Road Haulage Security Forum is also helping to build wider approaches.

Our engagement work extends well above this short list and we will continue to build on these successes in 2020. However, our greatest visibility is naturally our intelligence led operational work, facilitated by Graham Mogg, ACG ‘s Intelligence Coordinator. Graham’s work with our members, Trading Standards, Border Force, Police and with the National Markets Group (NMG) has resulted in the disruption of some major organised crime gangs and the identification of real opportunities to mitigate the growing threats to our members’ brands. Well over 100 raids have been jointly carried out this year, which have netted over a quarter of a million counterfeit products, with a value in excess of £10,000,000. Furthermore, our work with Border Force on “intensification exercises” at major UK airports, have resulted in thousands of fake goods being detained at UK borders.

In effect, having Graham as Chair of the NMG means that our members are able to play a valuable role in preventing and halting the infiltration of both traditional and online markets and we will continue to support NMG in all aspects of their work.

So, in conclusion, I simply want to thank you, personally, for your continued support for everything you have done in 2019. Having such a committed membership is hugely appreciated by the team and the ACG Board.  Our members are a tangible example of collaborative working and as a result we are able to support our treasured enforcement resources, whilst building even greater public awareness of the menace we face from criminals that have no conscience about the harm and devastation they bring to families, business, communities, and local and national economies.

Have a great Christmas and a very happy and successful New Year.


Wednesday 24th July 2019

Over the past year the ACG team has been concentrating more and more on ensuring we offer our members a wider and more balanced set of services. These services range from driving intelligence led, operational collaboration and support, to working with high level politicians, policy makers and enforcement decision takers to raise higher levels of consciousness about the growing dangers associated with counterfeiting.

Under Graham’s leadership, our intelligence coordination function has gone from strength to strength, with tremendous successes across the UK, including recent coordinated ACG raid actions alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and numerous operations, carried out across England and Wales, alongside Trading Standards, Border Force, ACG brand representatives and the National Markets Group (NMG). As a result of all this effort, we have extended our partnerships across borders and have even been contacted by CERN, (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and UNICRI (the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute) to help with a new system aimed at tracking transnational criminal networks.

The truth is that none of this ‘on the ground’ work can be achieved without the constant build-up of a huge network of partners. In fact ACG’s great strength is being able to foster and work with a growing landscape of public and private sector allies, to develop common plans and goals. This often takes chains of meetings to simply raise awareness, but in many cases it also relies on old fashioned ‘lobbying’ to press and influence politicians and officials. 

In reality, people often regard lobbying as being confrontational, but in my experience gaining strong government support relies, more heavily, on getting a well evidenced case across, to help identify compromise and then cooperation.  Our operational work gives us a tangible narrative based on real evidence.

This has become ever clearer to me since I came into the Director General role. Political stances and priorities can change quickly; as can the politicians and civils servants you deal with. A one-time opponent can quickly become a partner.  In lobbying, antagonising or alienating today’s contacts can often lead to enduring animosity, while negotiating win-win agreements very often lead to long-standing affiliations.

On this basis, the ACG team has been working hard to build our connections and networks in the UK, the EU and on the international landscape. We have been taking part in more and more high profile events, including our recent Anti Illicit Trade and Counterfeiting Workshop, which led to an output report and 12 point plan, which has been disseminated to key enforcement officials across the UK and the EU. As a result, I am meeting with the Ministerial Adviser on IP to ensure the UK firmly positions respect for intellectual property, brands and enforcement in all future trade agreements

From an enforcement angle, we have also been invited to join the Home Secretary’s Economic Crime Strategic Board and have been central in setting up a Strategy Group to look at how Border Force can develop its work to combat counterfeits arriving at our key airports.  Moreover, in the past few months we have been playing a strong role on two key All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) related to IP and Electrical Safety.

As our connections have widened I’ve often felt that consumers have been a lost voice in our efforts to raise public awareness. To help overcome this gap I’ve been building a relationship with the National Consumer Federation (NCF). The aim being to help develop a more comprehensive approach to awareness raising to better protect consumers from the accelerating dangers associated with counterfeit goods.  I’m delighted that Arnold Pindar the Director General of the NCF has warmed to this idea and will be joining me in a meeting with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which is developing a new research study on IP crime, including associated ties to other forms of transnational organised crime.

In November, we hold our Annual Conference in London and  I am excited that high level representatives from UK Government, enforcement and the USA have signalled their agreement to attend and speak.  This will not only give us a flavour of how UK anti-counterfeiting plans are progressing,  but we will also have a clearer view of how President Trump’s strategy has developed on the back of his recent memorandum.

All in all I hope you will agree that our network is getting wider and more effective.  I strongly believe that the broader and more collaborative it gets it will help us to find and develop more inclusive approaches to combat counterfeiting.

There’s no doubt that as we continue to build our connections with politicians and policy makers some of these will inevitably result in clashes and disagreements. But I’m sure that it is far more useful to build alliances than to try to browbeat potential partners.

The truth is we never know who we might need.

Phil


Thursday 5th May 2019


Hi all, when I took over from Alison last year (2018) I wrote a first blog explaining what I thought would be the key issues for us and how I intended to go about things.

First up, I clearly needed to take time to properly understand the whole ACG landscape in far more depth. After 9 months I thought I’d still be new; I didn’t realise I’d be such a novice!

One thing in my favour was that I wasn’t new to the Anti-Counterfeiting task and during the past 20 years I had come to believe that no single body could ever tackle this huge problem on its own. I still believe this and the fact that if we don’t develop more common aims and ways to allow private stakeholders to work together with public authorities we will still be fighting this problem in another 20 years.

Partnerships, of course, don’t always work; we know this and inevitably competing priorities will always exist. However, I believe ACG is really fortunate as we have some of the most dedicated and conscientious people I have ever worked with. I have the utmost respect for their longstanding enthusiasm and allegiance.

The problem we now face is that the enforcement landscape has changed considerably in past years. Unfortunately, it is much more multi-layered and complex nowadays. Moreover, the resources are simply not around anymore and as a result, enforcement authorities face continual challenges to do more with less. They are also under huge pressure trying to balance competing priorities.

So clearly, traditional strategies and what we expect and want as end results need to be re-thought. To get to an agreed position we need to concentrate even more effort on understanding and playing to each other’s’ strengths. This means we need to interact more effectively to better influence enforcement cooperation and collaboration.

In all this, I see the ACG as a primary ‘enabler’ in trying to ensure these precious resources have the right intelligence, training and support to allow them to make the right choices, when it comes to targeting the criminals involved in counterfeiting and piracy.

I believe this can only be achieved by working together to build an even greater understanding of where the risks, challenges and our combined strengths lie. Furthermore, we also need to better inform high-level policy makers and decision takers to better understand and accept the threats. This is particularly true as we move into a more uncertain trade environment. IP has to be at the forefront of future agreements. It has to receive full respect if we are to meet the forthcoming competition and challenges on the world trade stage.  

If the UK is believed to be getting less respectful of IP I fear potential trade partners might lose confidence, which could result in the start of a race to the bottom in terms of protection and enforcement.

So what of the future of fighting fake goods in an uncertain world? There has never been a more important time to be part of collaborative partnerships fighting IP infringement as they provide the intelligence and front line defence against the counterfeiters, but there exists a clear and present danger of that intelligence and knowledge will become more difficult to share when we leave the EU.

The bottom line is that I will be aiming to concentrate our efforts on building and influencing partnerships and providing enforcement training and assistance so we will be in a position to share our intelligence, knowledge and expertise within the UK and further afield. In doing this I believe that we will be in a stronger position to help develop common right strategies and the right choices.  

Phil


Monday 17th September 2018

Dear all, well here I am just over a month into the job.

As a new DG I thought I would make the usual start by trying to get a better understanding of how the ACG works and then trying to meet as many members and stakeholders as possible.

Acting as an adviser to ACG on strategy and government policy for four years, I’m clearly not new to the Group and it would have been easy to think I knew how the whole organisation works. However, I soon grasped how much I didn’t know! This was particularly true of the work of our Secretariat and our intelligence coordinator, Graham Mogg, and how they all interact with our members and stakeholders. Frankly, I have been blown away by the commitment and professionalism that this small team shows.

So I clearly needed to take time to properly understand the whole landscape in far more depth. That meant starting off as if I was completely new.

The one thing to my advantage is that I’m not new to anti-counterfeiting work. I’ve actually been involved for almost 20 years, both as senior policy adviser at the IP Office and then six years at the European Commission. During this time I realised that no single body could ever tackle this huge problem on its own. Partnerships are vital and for 14 years I tried my best to build structures that would allow public and private stakeholders to work together to develop common aims. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t, but generally the outcome was down to people and I was fortunate to have worked with some of the most dedicated and conscientious people in the world. Many are amongst our membership and our key stakeholders and I have the utmost respect for their longstanding enthusiasm and allegiance.

For now I’m working hard to understand and get to grips with a wide range of functions and jobs that I didn’t know existed. During this time I’ve met with one or two key stakeholders, namely Eddy Leviten of the Alliance for IP and Ros Lynch at the IPO. Both have a steadfast approach to building better collaboration and cooperation and I’m looking forward to working with them in the future.

From now on my big task will be meeting our members and primary stakeholders who enable us to function and then working with you all to build what I hope will be truly lasting and effective relationships.

On some of our principle partners, we all realise that our enforcement authorities face continual challenges to do more with less. They are often under huge pressure trying to balance competing priorities. In this respect, I see the ACG as a primary ‘enabler’ in trying to ensure these precious resources have the right intelligence, training and support to allow them to make the right choices, when it comes to targeting the criminals involved in counterfeiting and piracy. I believe this can only be achieved by us working together to build an even greater understanding of where the risks, challenges and our combined strengths lie.

Clearly, we also need to better inform high level policy makers and decision takers to understand the threats.  This is particularly true as we move into a more uncertain trade environment. IP has to be at the forefront of future agreements. It has to receive full respect if we are to meet the forthcoming competition and challenges on the world trade stage.  If we are seen to be less than respectful of IP I fear potential partners might lose confidence in us or even begin a race to the bottom in terms of protection and enforcement.

The challenges lie ahead and I really look forward to meeting and working with you to protect businesses, consumers and the economy. If you are at the forthcoming Roadshow in Cheltenham or the Annual conference please stop me to say hello.

Before I end I really have to pay tribute to the work Alison Statham has carried out over the past 13 years. Alison has been the ACG stalwart supporting and then leading the organisation at times when the economy threatened budgets and counterfeiting grew to become an international menace. Throughout Alison was utterly reliable and unswerving. 

Phil

About ACG

ACG represents more than 3,000 brands affected by this influx of fakes into the UK and delivers an international network of information, advice and contacts on all aspects of IP protection. Working with Government and law enforcement agencies since 1980, ACG is focused on providing an effective and sustained response to counterfeiting.

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