According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the UK is now the highest ranked country for IP enforcement, a clear reflection of the continued hard-work and commitment by enforcement agencies in tackling IP Crime.

This finding is published in the UK Intellectual Property Office and IP Crime Group’s latest annual IP Crime Report 2015-2016, available on the UK IPO’s website. The report sets out the work conducted, as well as the various successes achieved, in combatting IP crime over the past 12 months.

The problem of IP crime globally remains considerable. Recent statistics estimate that counterfeit products in the EU amount to up to 5 per cent of all EU imports, worth up to €85 million. Counterfeit goods are said to cost the automotive industry in particular around £28 billion a year, resulting in a loss of 2.5 million jobs globally. Money laundering, benefit fraud and organised crime are the top three criminal activities linked to IP crime.

The report shows that China and Hong Kong continue to be particular ‘hot spot’ areas, as the majority of infringing goods seized at the UK border originate from these countries. Survey results from Trading Standards Offices indicate that cigarettes/tobacco remain the most investigated products, with clothing and alcohol making up the top three. Whilst ordinary shops remain the most investigated location, social media, websites and auction sites all feature highly.

Indeed, developments in technology have meant that social media and online platforms are increasingly used as vehicles for intellectual property infringement. Accordingly, IP enforcement agencies have had to react and adapt strategies to deal with the growth in counterfeit goods sold, and pirated material shared, online and via social media; various successes of these enforcement teams are reflected in the report. For example:

  • Almost 4000 domain names were suspended by Nominet for criminal activity.
  • Over the past three years, the Police IP Crime Unit (PIPCU) has suspended over 10,000 websites selling counterfeit goods and has arrested 69 individuals.
  • 84 per cent of online market place takedowns reported by Trademark and Rights Holders Against Piracy (TRAP) relate to Amazon or eBay listings.

Overall, the report reinforces the importance of interconnectivity – close contact and collaboration between brand owners and enforcement groups, as well as between partner organisations, both in the UK and internationally. The figures and studies demonstrate that close collaboration between these groups is largely to thank for the successes achieved to date in combatting IP Crime.

Whilst the UK may have voted to leave the EU back in June 2016, it seems clear from the Report that the UK will look to continue to work closely with its EU counterparts in order to tackle the threats posed by IP crime.