Intellectual property can be protected efficiently with the help of law enforcement authorities. In India, various steps have recently been taken to strengthen IP enforcement: anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy activities have been carried out vigorously by various law enforcement agencies, including the central and state police forces across the country.

Central police authorities fall under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Specialised federal agency the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) under the Central Bureau of Investigation deals with specific areas of intellectual property such as counterfeiting, piracy and cybercrimes, and handles the investigation and prosecution of IP rights infringements at federal level. The EOW was established in 1964, but began full operations in 1994 to deal with the offences and statutes listed in Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946, which include intellectual property as well.

The EOW investigates only complex cases, and its investigations usually involve the collection and analysis of documents collected from various sources.

As in many federal nations, the Indian Constitution also mandates that the state govern law and order; therefore, the majority of the policing takes place through the respective government states and union territories.

When an IP right is infringed, the rights holder can engage state police authorities to enforce its IP right as follows:

  • The rights holder or an authorised representative can file an official written complaint to the local police authorities in the form of a first information report on the rights infringement; or
  • The rights holder can approach the magistrate and file a criminal complaint so that the competent court will direct the police to investigate the matter further.

In addition to the specific offences listed in the IP rights statutes, a police officer with a rank of at least deputy superintendent of police or sub-inspector has the authority to conduct search and seizure in relation to trademarks, copyright and geographical indications.

The police deposit the infringing goods at the police station, bring the accused party before the court and submit a sample of the infringing items as evidence before the court. On the order of the court, the police either dispose of the infringing items or hand them over to the rights holder.

Following search and seizure, the police are also entrusted with the additional responsibility of identifying the source of infringement and preparing the charge sheet with input from the public prosecutor and the rights holder.

In 2016 India’s first dedicated, state IP crime unit was launched by the Telangana state government: the Telangana Intellectual Property Crime Unit (TIPCU). The unit was set up under the cybercrime wing of the Crime Investigation Department and deals with complaints relating to online piracy and the illegal downloading and distribution of films. The TIPCU also recommends which websites should be blocked for offering pirated content. The TIPCU also traces and prosecutes pirates, and freezes their revenue sources.

Like Telangana, most state police departments have specialised cybercrime wings which also deal with online IP crime (eg, software piracy, infringement of copyright, trademarks, patents, designs and service marks, and theft of computer source code). The major cities in India with cybercrime cells are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Gandhinagar.

Recently, the central government has taken many steps to promote IP awareness among the police. For example, the Cell for Intellectual Property Rights Promotion and Management (CIPAM) organises police training programmes. In 2016 several training sessions were conducted with various state police departments. For the purpose of IP protection and awareness, CIPAM also collaborates with other organisations. Recently, it prepared an IP rights enforcement toolkit for police officials in conjunction with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The role of the police authorities is thus paramount in IP protection and enforcement. IP rights are inherently dynamic in nature and their effective enforcement requires the police authorities to constantly upgrade techniques and methods while dealing with legal and technical issues. Recently the police have taken many initiatives in this regard, and rights holders are developing confidence in the authorities in terms of effective and expeditious protection and enforcement.

This article first appeared in IAM. For further information please visit www.iam-media.com.