This year’s report combines the experiences of the key stakeholders in the IP crime prevention landscape. It captures a unique snapshot of the nature of IP crime in the UK. This year’s reporting period also saw the unprecedent challenges brought on by COVID-19.
Recent reports from the OECD indicate that trade in fake goods continues to increase from an already high level of 3.3% of world trade in 2016. [footnote 1]
In March 2021 the 10th wave of the Online Copyright Infringement Tracker reported a 23% infringement rate. Although this figure is 2% lower than the previous year, it still represents a threat to our creative industries and an unacceptable level of IP ‘crime ambivalence’ on the behalf of UK consumers. [footnote 2]
Dids Macdonald, OBE., Chief Executive of ACID said, “The work of the IP Crime Group cannot be underestimated. ACID is proud to be a member of this group who consistently share intel and work collaboratively to tackle these insidious crimes. However, the report still makes chilling reading. Of those, ACID members surveyed, 91% said design theft was blatant and deliberate and 40 ACID members reported a loss of £8.7 over 5 years.”
Online IP Theft
- Although the numbers of people knowingly taking part in online copyright crime fell this year to 23% of purchasers. This statistic still represents a startling high proportion of the UK purchasing public.
- The remaining 77% of us, who seek out authentic products from reputable sources online and offline, remain susceptible to counterfeit and fraud [footnote 4]. The IPO’s most recent research into counterfeit goods paints a similar picture.[footnote 5]
- The IPO’s reports on online copyright and counterfeit goods infringement explore the relationships and linkages between three groups: ‘disruptive’ shoppers [i.e. those who deliberately seek copyright infringing and counterfeit products]; ‘deceived’ shoppers [those who unwittingly purchase those products through deception] and IP crime perpetrators [those who provide counterfeit and copyright infringing products].
- They expose the breadth of IP crime, from illegal tobacco sales in corner shops, to illegal streaming at home, to the construction of complex equipment and its routing across global supply chains by organised, international criminal networks.
- They also illustrate a fundamental characteristic of the IP crime; there is one kind of criminal, but there are two kinds of consumers. Those who may be deceived who require protection (especially in respect of dangerous products as Electricity Safety First point out) and those who knowingly support counterfeiters.
“The question as to how best to change the behaviour of this group is fast becoming a policy priority.”
The IP Crime Group brings together an alliance of stakeholders comprising national and local government agencies, national and international IP crime prevention bodies, public and private crime prevention specialists, trade and consumer protection organisations, IP owners, the legal community and policy makers. All these partners are committed to the reduction of IP crime online, in physical markets and through supply chains. The enforcement work detailed in this year’s report highlights thousands of online suspensions, complex police, Trading Standards and Border Force operations, case work against individual criminals, prosecutions, engagement and educational work and international liaison with partners across the globe.
Many of the most productive interventions developed and highlighted in this report are collaborations between private and public interest groups with overlapping agendas and a common objective – tackle IP crime. A new member of the IP Crime Group has been created. Northwest Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is now live. PIPCU are continuously engaging and supporting Group members and have been working collaboratively on investigations. The NW PIPCU has already seized £1.7m worth of fake goods including clothes, electricals, and fireworks. The unit has ongoing investigations with an estimated potential loss to industry of £2.3m.
The submissions from IP Group members this year suggest a shift in IP crime online. Similarly, our consumer facing members and organisations with a strong remit for the protection of consumers all shifted their communications online. Developing strategies and policies that work online and offline has become a priority for our communicators and our specialists in crime prevention at an operational level.
The authors of the Online Copyright Infringement Tracker Survey make clear recommendations:
- What became overwhelmingly apparent through feedback from respondents was that no matter which category the messages fell into, focussing on the story of an individual was the most effective way of encouraging acts of self-reflection and potential behaviour change.
- Messages about the consequences to industries, big corporations or the economy failed to garner much empathy across the board whilst messages relating to Covid-19 were seen as potentially insensitive and only temporary in effect, given that lockdown would eventually end thus making them difficult to relate to.
- Changing consumer attitudes to IP crime remains an imperative. Disruptive shoppers, aware that they are buying rip-offs, account for over half of the destinations for counterfeit goods entering the UK, according to the OECD/IPO.
- At the moment a little over a fifth of all British consumers are prepared to countenance a high level of IP crime. Both figures must be reduced through a combination of deterrence, because of successful law enforcement actions, and through increasingly effective public relations pioneered by public facing members of our group.
Information about the IP Crime Group including useful IP enforcement contacts is available.
- IPO Research Priorities 2020/21
- Trade in Counterfeit Products and the UK Economy 2020
- Online Copyright Infringement Tracker 10th Wave
- OECD/EUIPO (2019), Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, Illicit Trade, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Union Intellectual Property Office here and OECD/EUIPO (2021), Global Trade in Fakes: A Worrying Threat, Illicit Trade, OECD Publishing, Paris, here.
- IPO, Copyright infringement tracker survey, 10th wave, March, 2021 ↩
About the IP Crime Group
The UK IP Crime Group began its work in 2004. Its brief was clear – to act as a forum for all stakeholders in the IP crime and enforcement environment and as a platform from which policies and action could be launched. Since its inception, the group’s membership has been diverse and inclusive. Private sector specialists, law enforcement authorities, legal specialists, trade representatives, brand owners and government departments working together to form productive partnerships. IP Crime Group members tackle IP crime and infringement in the UK and at an international level. Group members and invited organisations play an important role in providing contributions for the annual IP Crime and Enforcement Report. The report is published in September jointly by the Intellectual Property Office and the Group.