The UKIPO recently set out the government’s strategy over the next four years for tackling intellectual property infringement. The IP Enforcement 2020 policy paper notes that the UK has been recognised as a world leader in IP enforcement but that there are a number of challenges to address and areas to improve upon in order to tackle IP infringement and counterfeiting.
The report opens with a snazzy infographic that provides a summary of IP Enforcement related facts in the UK. The graphic highlights the contribution of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) (over £33million of IP crime investigated, 69 arrests, £3 million of counterfeit goods seized since PIPCU’s creation) and flags up two IP enforcement operations (Operations Jasper and Pangea). The top 5 countries of origin for IPR-infringing goods are named and shamed (China, Hong Kong, India, Turkey and Pakistan) and some statistics show the UK Border Force has been involved in the detention of goods worth more than £56 million and the UKIPO has provided advice to over 4000 businesses that operate or are planning to operate abroad.
The core ambitions of the UK government are highlighted as: making UK businesses more confident in operating internationally as a result of better global IP protection; providing rights owners and users access to effective mechanisms to resolve disputes and tackle IP infringement; and to educate consumers and users on the benefits of respecting IP rights.
The issues facing the enforcement of IP are highlighted in a number of case studies that are sprinkled through the report. IPcopy’s eye was caught by a couple of these.
In the first a sportswear brand was looking to stop the movement of counterfeit training shoes. The study noted that the case provided a challenge because the goods had already been cleared into the EU by another country’s customs. As a result of EU regulations, it was not possible to UK customs to detain the counterfeits (an untapped “vote leave” argument there!) and so it was up to local Trading Standards to seize the goods.
In the second case study a man in Birmingham was sentenced to two years for copyright infringement relating to the sale of counterfeit DVDs. The investigation was undertaken jointly by PIPCU and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) following a tip off from Crimestoppers. Of interest to IPcopy was the fact that the most expensive item listed in the collection was the then current season of NCIS at £69. IPcopy notes that based on the per-episode costs of Amazon and iTunes streaming services this doesn’t actually appear to offer any financial saving!
The number of different organisations involved with IP enforcement highlights how complex the situation is and the report provides a number of objectives to educate consumers, ensure the legal framework is in place for enforcing rights, provide easy routes to access legal content and to engage at local and national levels.
The objectives include making the online world somewhere for legitimate activity, tackling the trade in counterfeit goods (the UKIPO has a key role to play in this area), improving the legal framework (all existing legal options for IP enforcement are to be comprehensively reviewed apparently to ensure they are effective and consistent. Additional legislation will be considered to tackle companies that warehouse and pack counterfeit goods and also to address issues with illegal streaming via set top boxes), increasing education, awareness and respect for IP, increasing international engagement and improving the evidence base for IP enforcement policy (on this last point it is noted in the report that the true scale of IP infringement is unknown as many TM, copyright and design cases are prosecuted under fraud legislation and are not therefore recorded as IP crimes).
The report ends by noting that the immediate focus of work will be in Europe to try and influence the current review of the IP Enforcement Directive. The report also states that it is hoped that the UK can make use of its Presidency of the Council of the EU in the latter half of 2017. Following the EU referendum however it is noted that the UK has passed on its scheduled presidency.
Mark Richardson 3 August 2016