City Of London Police launch new Intellectual Property Unit in the North West
04 March 2021
A new unit set up to tackle intellectual property fraud in the north west has already seized £1.7m worth of fake goods, including clothes, electricals and fireworks.
The City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit to set up the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. This is an extension of its intellectual property capability, based in the City, which is focussed on intellectual property crime, ranging from copyright offences to fake goods.
The unit will combat intellectual property crime in the north west of England and will support existing partners to disrupt and prosecute existing and new offenders.
On Thursday 4 March 2021, officers executed five warrants for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) offences, which resulted in two arrests, the seizure of electrical items, cash and counterfeit goods.
Superintendent Pete Ratcliffe, City of London Police, said:
“The world of intellectual property crime is constantly evolving and the formation of the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit clearly demonstrates that police, Government and industry are committed to protecting the UK from both established and emerging threats, many of which are now operating from online platforms.
“Intellectual property crime costs our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year and threatens thousands of jobs. The unit has ongoing investigations with an estimated potential loss to industry of £2.3m.
“Through launching the NWPIPCU, we are sending out a clear warning to organised crime groups that IP crime won’t be tolerated.
Superintendent, Paul Denn of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:
“We’re delighted to launch an Intellectual Police Property Crime Unit here in the North West today, thanks to our partners in the City of London Police. Partnerships such as these are vital when tackling counterfeit operations as they bring specialisms together from across the country to make a real difference.
“Today’s activities are just the start of a series of operations we will be undertaking to investigate the scale of the problem here in the North West.
“I’d like to remind members of the public that although ‘fake goods’ may seem like an innocent way to bag a bargain, the counterfeit goods business is not a victimless crime. When people buy these goods, they’re helping to fund serious and organised crime, which in turn can lead to more drugs, guns and violence on our streets – not to mention leaving genuine businesses out of pocket.”
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in London was set up in2013 to protect UK industries which produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content. The operationally independent unit is funded by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business Innovation. The unit works with a wide range of national and international partners from public authorities and private industry to build a comprehensive UK policing response to the threat of online intellectual property crime.
The North West unit will also be focused on influencing online behaviour by site owners, service providers and consumers through education, prevention and enforcement activity, and providing offenders where appropriate with opportunities to accept restorative justice.
IPO CEO, Tim Moss said:
“We are delighted to be further strengthening our partnership with City of London Police and building a new one with North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Effective collaboration is vital for success in combatting IP crime. We are excited about the vital role the new IP crime hub will play in supporting the already impressive capability of this partnership, helping to reduce counterfeit goods and copyright offences in the north west”
WARNING: Police launch investigation into counterfeit baby carriers
25 February 2021
The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit have launched an investigation into counterfeit baby carriers being sold on eBay.
Officers have identified, and contacted, a number of customers who have already purchased fake Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carriers, but are encouraging anyone else who may have unwittingly bought one of these counterfeit items to get in touch.
T/Detective Inspector Kevin Ives, from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“If you have purchased an Ergobaby carrier online, but not via the company’s official website, you could be using a fake.
“A counterfeit item such as this could cause harm to you and your baby and it’s important you stop using it immediately.
“If you think you’ve purchased one of these items, please call 101 and ask to be put through to the City of London Police.”
An Ergobaby spokesperson said:
“We greatly appreciate the City of London Police’s assistance in stopping counterfeit Ergobaby carriers being sold. We know parents and carers want the best and safest products for their children, but counterfeit products can be dangerous and may cause harm as they are not verified by us, and therefore we cannot be sure that they adhere to our rigorous standards of quality and care. We use high quality, certified materials that are produced in independently inspected facilities which adhere to responsible work practices.
“Because of our uncompromised premium quality and construction, genuine Ergobaby carriers come with the ErgoPromise Guarantee, a 10-year warranty on any manufacturing or material defects, to ensure parents’ peace of mind that their carrier is built to last. This dedication to excellence has led to our carriers winning numerous international product awards and health endorsements, only serving to make it more damaging when counterfeits try to deceive parents into believing their fake products are genuine Ergobaby products.
“We do our utmost to make sure parents are aware of the pitfalls of purchasing counterfeits and remind them that the safest way to ensure they are buying authentic products is by visiting our website and buying there, or through our authorised retailers. If anyone has any concerns that their product is not genuine then they can get in touch with us via our customer support team at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Further information can be found at: https://ergobaby.com/counterfeits
Members of an organised crime group importing and selling counterfeit goods worldwide are sentenced
10 February 2021
The three leaders of an organised crime group, who worked together to import counterfeit trainers and distribute them internationally, have been sentenced.
On Tuesday 09 February 2021, Xiaoguang Xia, 37 of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7, Jian Lin, 38, of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7 and Yingpen Qu, 40, of Larch Gardens, Manchester, M8 were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court.
Xia was sentenced to two years imprisonment, Lin to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years and Qu to 12 months community order and 50 hours unpaid work.
Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized 280,000 pairs of counterfeit shoes, computer equipment and approximately £20,000 in cash at the warehouse and high street store owned by Xia. Thousands of branded labels imported separately to be sown onto counterfeit clothing and shoes were also seized.
Detective Constable, Daryl Fryatt, who led the investigation said:
“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal. These arrests have caused major disruption to an organised crime gang which has been involved in intellectual property crime worldwide, for years. This has hopefully sent a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated and you will be brought to justice.
“For the public it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are working in.
“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank each organisation involved for their help in shutting down this organised crime group”.
The investigation began with a referral from the Intellectual Property Office and Trading Standards and led to three warrants being executed by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) with help from Greater Manchester Police, Border Force, Trading Standards, Manchester Fire Service and UK Immigration Services. Fake goods belonging to the group had been seized at various markets and through various sellers since 2015 and were all linked the warehouse and high street store raided by PIPCU.
Financial investigations revealed that the business account owned by Zia and Qu received payments between May 2016 and January 2019, to the value £2.3 million. The bank account regularly sent payments of £10,000 to a bank account in China, with the reference ‘gifts for children’.
Real gifts for real love: PIPCU urges shoppers to avoid the fakes this Valentines
8 February 2021
Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) are warning Valentines shoppers to avoid counterfeit products and to not shop on fake online sites, after taking down 500 fake websites already, so far this year.
Laboratory tests have shown common Valentines gifts such as counterfeit perfume, often contain poisonous chemicals, including cyanide and even human urine. Fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and harmful substances such as arsenic, mercury and lead. All of these can cause allergic reactions, such as skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns, as well as leaving the consumer with longer-term health problems.
Counterfeit make-up is often produced in insanitary and unhygienic factories and there have been cases where rats’ droppings and poison have also been found in the phoney cosmetics.
With Valentine's gifts being purchased online this year, officers are warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to non-reputable sellers. Criminals often use people’s personal details to commit fraud, such as registering other counterfeit websites in their name and stealing personal and financial details.
Temporary Detective Inspector, Kevin Ives of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said:
“Valentine’s Day is a counterfeiter’s dream. With jewellery and perfume being popular gift choices, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a cheap offer.
“Fake makeup and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns. Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.
“Treat your Valentine to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Avoid heart break, don’t buy fake.” #Don’tFakeMyHeart
PIPCU also works closely with manufacturers, brand guardians, partner agencies and governmental departments to identify counterfeit websites. Action is then taken to suspend the sites by working closely with Nominet, the UK’s central registry for all .uk domains, once it is established that the websites are in breach of the Copyright and Trademarks Act.
Europol predictions correct for fake COVID-19 vaccines
10 December 2020
Increased vigilance for criminal fraudulent activity is advised to all Member States
While Europe is hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, testing is ongoing for potential new vaccines to treat the virus. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced that it will conclude evaluation of the first conditional marketing authorisation application for a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year. Several EU Member States have already published their vaccination plans. Europol urges increased vigilance among Member States and third-party countries on the possible involvement of criminals in the vaccine development and distribution process.
Europol has published an early warning notification on Vaccine-related crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Confirmed crime projections of counterfeit vaccines
In April this year, Europol announced the potential harm of offline and online scams offering alleged versions of the COVID-19 vaccine. Projections were also made in relation to the announcement of a genuine vaccine and the reaction of organised crime to adapt its methods to meet demand.
These projections were later confirmed in Europol’s November report, where it was identified that the distribution of substandard and counterfeit pharmaceutical products, including preventative COVID-19 vaccines had remained a consistent pandemic-related criminal activity.
Counterfeit vaccines may pose a significant risk to public health
Owing to the pandemic, the demand for influenza treatments has been higher than usual and there are risks of shortages in numerous countries. This high demand may encourage people to seek the vaccine elsewhere. For this reason, once the legitimate vaccine enters the market, counterfeit versions of the brand are expected to circulate rapidly to meet the high demand.
It is feared that criminals will share disinformation to defraud individuals and companies alike. There have already been cases of advertisements on dark web marketplaces using the brands of genuine pharmaceutical companies that are already in the final stages of testing.
These counterfeit vaccines may pose a significant risk to public health if they are ineffective or toxic, given their production in labs without the required hygiene standards. These fake vaccines may circulate on illicit markets or be introduced to the legal market for distribution.
Europol actively encourages Member States to share any relevant information on criminal activities related to COVID-19 or flu vaccines.
Police warn of the dangers of counterfeit fireworks ahead of bonfire night
4 November 2020
The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their bonfire night fireworks from legitimate sellers.
With organised firework displays cancelled this year due to Covid-19, the City of London Police and the British Fireworks Association are asking the public to think twice about where they buy their fireworks from, and to consider celebrating in a different way that poses less risk.
Last week, officers from PIPCU stopped a van driving around different areas of the North West selling counterfeit fireworks. The van was seized as well as £4,000 worth of fake fireworks.
Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“As public firework displays aren’t taking place this year and many still want to celebrate, we urge you to buy from legitimate firework sellers, and make sure you have checked all the safety advice and Covid-19 guidelinesbefore having a home fireworks display.
“A home firework display can impact significantly on your safety, your community, your neighbours, animals and the environment. The dangers of buying fake fireworks cannot be underestimated, with potentially devastating consequences for public safety. It is vital that consumers are extra careful and double check where they buy their fireworks from.
“Remember that fireworks are explosives, and as such should be treated with respect and only used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the Firework Code.”
Legitimate fireworks pose a serious risk to the public if not used correctly, and counterfeit fireworks are even worse. They won’t have been through the same rigorous testing as genuine fireworks, the chemicals within them could be harmful, the packaging may not meet safety standards, and the instructions will not have been tested.
PIPCU is also warning the public that there are many risks when buying counterfeit fireworks on marketplaces, websites and social media. When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details, which allow fraudsters to set up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.
Steve Raper, Chairman of the British Firework Association said:
“The BFA advice is only buy from shops which you recognise or feel will still be around after Bonfire night - and never from the back of vans. Only use web sites belonging to firework companies and avoid buying via social media. Always read the instructions printed on every firework - if they are not clear or not in English they may be illegal’.
Trick or treat: PIPCU warns of fake fancy dress dangers ahead of Halloween
28 October 2020
The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their Halloween fancy dress outfits from legitimate sellers.
Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning from untested dyes and strangulation from unsuitable fastenings. The outfits are not tested or subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and therefore pose a public safety risk to consumers. The packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards.
PIPCU is also warning the public that there are many risks when buying counterfeit Halloween costumes on marketplaces, websites and social media. When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details, which allow fraudsters to set up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.
Don’t get cursed this Halloween
PIPCU is issuing the following consumer advice and tips for safe online shopping this Halloween:
Temporary Detective Inspector Kev Ives, of the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said:
“Enjoying Halloween safely should be a guarantee, not a treat. Purchasing costumes from a reputable seller will ensure you are not tricked into buying unsafe products.
“The dangers of buying fake fancy dress costumes cannot be underestimated, with potentially devastating consequences for public safety. With the popularity of fancy dress costumes at this time of year it’s vital that consumers are extra careful and check where they are buying them from.
“Counterfeit costumes are untested, meaning they put people at risk of suffocation and strangulation. Make sure your Halloween is scary for the right reasons!”
Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the IPO said:
“In spite of restrictions on Halloween this year, it can still be a fun time for families. Along with our partners in the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), we want to make sure it stays that way.
“We echo PIPCU’s advice, and would urge the public to think twice before buying fake fancy dress costumes - the dangers are alarming, with potentially shocking implications to public safety.”
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.
The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.
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.
Membership with the ACG is the best way to work with government and enforcement bodies to protect your brand. Our Roadshows and training days help you reach out to police, trading standards and border force officers and tell them about your genuine products.