By Marcus Leach

More people than ever before are being successfully prosecuted for committing intellectual property crime in the UK according to a new report published.

Intellectual Property (IP) crime is the counterfeiting of trade marked goods such as clothes and the piracy of copyrighted material such as CDs and DVDs.

The annual IP report, published by the IP Crime Group, reveals the actions that are being taken by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and partner agencies to fight those breaking the law.

The report highlights that 75 per cent of all criminal copyright cases end in a positive conviction. It also reveals that 80 per cent of all IP crime cases result in guilty plea prosecutions against the defendants.

The report shows an increase in the sale and distribution of counterfeit and pirated goods over the internet and auction websites during the last 12 months, while there has been a fall in IP crime at sites such as outdoor markets, although that still remains a problem area.

“The selling of counterfeited goods and pirated material harms the UK economy, while some fake goods can be dangerous to unwary consumers," Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said.

“We are witnessing a wider range of fakes including medicines, alcohol and electrical goods. However, the Government is committed to tackling these issues. We have a dedicated intellectual property crime team who are specialists in providing support to partner agencies such as Trading Standards and the Police.

“I am pleased to see a continued, collaborative approach by Government agencies, law enforcement and industry. We are tackling these crimes together and this report highlights many of the successes achieved throughout the year.”

The report lists goods seized and activity carried out by a range of organisations across the country. It also highlights the value of the Proceeds of Crime Act (PoCA) to fighting piracy and counterfeiting. The Act allows enforcement agencies to apply for money made from criminal activities to be confiscated. A 2009 MORI poll found that over 85 per cent of people support recovering assets from criminals.

In May 2010, London Borough of Enfield Trading Standards secured an £11 million confiscation order, one of the largest ever secured by a local council under PoCA. It followed the prosecution of a local man in February 2008 after 30,000 pairs of counterfeit Burberry shoes were seized. The subsequent PoCA investigation revealed the defendant was also involved in a £72 million VAT Carousel fraud.

Other examples of significant cases involving IP crime include:

- Six members of a group, who used high-tech equipment to produce 24 fake bottles of vodka a minute, were jailed for a combined total of 56 years in July 2010. More than 1.3 million litres of the illegal vodka was made in a warehouse in Hackney, East London, with an estimated value of £16 million. Confiscation proceedings are now underway.

- A graduate from London was found guilty of breaching copyright by illegally recording films in cinemas. A mobile phone was used to record the films which were uploaded to the internet and made available to others to watch them or burn them onto illegal DVDs across the world.

- Fake cigarette lighters displaying the Olympic symbol and stating London 2012 were discovered at car boot sales in Coventry. The London Olympic trade mark and the symbol of the Olympic Rings are protected trade marks, and steps are being taken to trace the supply of the lighters. Genuine London 2012 games merchandise will include a numbered holographic version of the official logo as part of the packaging or labelling.

The IPO is committed to improving the awareness of IP crime to businesses by providing a range of educational tools. The IP awareness campaign is supported by a varied programme of events, workshops and training seminars.

“Intellectual property crime is a real and serious threat to UK companies and consumers alike. This report highlights organised criminal methodologies and the dangers posed in fake products. The recently published IP crime strategy outlines plans for tackling criminals, disrupting the supply of pirated and counterfeit goods and reducing the incentives for IP crime," Giles York, IP Crime Group chairman and Deputy Chief Constable of Sussex Police said.

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