By Marcus Leach

The Intellectual Property Office and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have joined forces to give prosecutors in England and Wales a new tool to help them tackle intellectual property (IP) crime.

IP crime is the counterfeiting of trade-marked goods such as clothes, pharmaceuticals, car parts and electrical goods and the piracy of copyrighted material such as CDs, DVDs, software and games.

More than 350 prosecutors from the CPS are currently being specially trained to build successful cases against counterfeiters and pirates.

The move is in line with the recently published Hargreaves review of intellectual property and growth and the Government’s IP crime strategy, which highlighted a need for a more integrated approach with partners to enforce IP rights.

"The initiative will give prosecutors the most up to date information so they can successfully deal with intellectual property criminals," Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said.

"These offences are not victimless crimes. They have a detrimental effect on consumers, businesses, the economy and growth. Consumers are likely to receive poor quality or even unsafe products that simply aren’t worth the price.

"There are huge events coming up in the UK such as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. There will no doubt be people looking to sell counterfeit goods using trade marks associated with the games.”

Merchandise with an unauthorised London 2012 Olympic logo is already believed to be in the UK supply chain. Counterfeit cigarette lighters have been discovered at a car boot sale in the Coventry area and their source is being tracked down by Trading Standards.

“Consumers will benefit from this new co-operation between the Crown Prosecution Service and the Intellectual Property Office," Esther George, a Senior Policy Advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service said.

"It may be that criminals take advantage of the opportunities offered by the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, so the CPS and IPO have worked together to develop training which will equip prosecutors to deal more effectively with the unlawful distribution of counterfeit goods.”

The recently published IP crime report highlighted that more people than ever before are successfully being prosecuted for these types of crime. But, more needs to be done to tackle the criminals who cheat consumers into buying fake goods online at auction websites for example. The training includes a module for prosecutors specifically about these crimes. This will help the CPS tackle emerging threats to businesses and consumers online.

Anyone found guilty of offences under the Trade Mark Act 1994 or the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 could face a 10 year prison sentence and/or a fine. In addition, the Proceeds of Crime Act (PoCA) allows criminals’ gains from counterfeiting and piracy to be confiscated.

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