Guest Post: UK IPO Annual IP crime and enforcement report for 2018-2019

The UK Intellectual Property Office resealed its Annual IP crime and enforcement report for 2018 to 2019 earlier this month and Jake Campbell, an in-house IP media and lawyer, provides his review of the report:

Earlier this month, the UK Intellectual Property Office published its latest IP Crime Report, looking at the landscape of criminal IP infringement in the UK over the last year, highlighting current and emerging threats. The report is compiled by members of the “IP Crime Group”, a group of government departments, police forces, Trading Standards (local government services that protect consumers and check businesses for regulatory compliance), trade bodies and individual businesses.  The report highlights the successes and challenges in tackling infringement through the UK’s criminal, rather than civil, enforcement regime. 

Whilst the report provides an informative summary for rightsholders of threats to consider, in many ways, the stories in the report should not come as any surprise.  However, it does show the evolution in criminal activity as the world becomes evermore connected, both physically and digitally. The report is 126 pages long (excluding the supplement from Trading Standards), so this brief note summarises some of the most noteworthy points: 

The change in how people consume media poses significant challenges – previous IP Crime Reports could highlight successful seizures of counterfeit DVDs or the shutdown of the factory making them, but infringing content is accessed via apps or livestreaming on social media. The Report also notes a resurgence in sharing files via torrents because the subscription video-on-demand market (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.) has become fragmented and many users are not prepared to pay for more than one provider.

Enforcement efforts have become increasingly internationally focussed – the UK government and trade bodies have been working with other government agencies in China and India to stop the flow of infringing goods at source, rather than take action in the UK.  South East Asia and various former Soviet states are increasing their infringing activities.  Improved transport connections via China’s ‘belt and road’ initiative also increases the risk of infringing goods coming into the UK undetected.

Increased engagement with the public has replaced some legal action - the report recognises that engagement with the public is vital.  Campaigns on social media have included claims that IP crime funds terrorism and human trafficking (although there is some scepticism surrounding these claims) but also an emphasis on safety issues, such as faulty counterfeit phone chargers or hair straighteners.  Online IP infringement is still considered a ‘victimless’ crime by the public and the Scottish Police’s contribution to the Report notes that consumers’ apathy to counterfeit products encourages criminal enterprise. 
More IP Crime funds terrorism campaings?! Yawn.
Image: Garrett Ziegler

Criminal networks can be sophisticated and extensive, even having the appearance of a legitimate service - one illegal TV streaming service had revenues of over £4m and 178,000 paying subscribers.  It had numerous employees and spent £1m on running the operation, including customer service and technical support.

New partners in the IP Crime Group - the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the motor industry have joined the group and made contributions to the report.  Understandably, the MoD is concerned about counterfeit products compromising the safety of the armed forces.

Unbranded goods arriving in the UK to be branded here - this is a new trend where labels of famous brand names are added to goods after they arrive in the UK to avoid detection at customs.

Tobacco, clothing, cosmetics, footwear and perfume continue to be the most popular infringing goods - these products are most investigated by Trading Standards.  They have investigated shops, as usual, but their remit has extended to websites and social media.  The Report states that a decrease in taxpayer resource (customs officers and Trading Standards investigators) could result in more infringing goods reaching consumers.  The Report notes that agencies and brand-owners are working with these platforms to combat the issue of infringing goods

The impact of Brexit and unregistered design rights - trade body Anti Copying in Design (ACID) is concerned that designers will lose the EU unregistered design right if they first disclose their goods in the UK as (apparently) 80% of UK designers rely on this right.  They continue to press the government for the introduction of criminal sanctions for UK unregistered design right infringement. 
Guest Post: UK IPO Annual IP crime and enforcement report for 2018-2019 Guest Post: UK IPO Annual IP crime and enforcement report for 2018-2019 Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Thursday, September 26, 2019 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to know that the police have removed 30,000 UK domain registrations associated with IP crime. But how do you report a crime to the IP police? The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, today, don't even seem to have a working website.


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