Intellectual property crime and your business

Intellectual property crime in the workplace

Working environments can represent a lucrative potential market place for sales of counterfeit and pirated goods. Sometimes it is an employee who uses the resources of the business to create or distribute counterfeit or pirate products. In other cases, it is people who come into workplaces to sell fake or pirated goods.

It makes sense to ensure that your employees are made aware of how important intellectual property (IP) rights are to your business and that respect for other people's IP rights is equally important. As well as ensuring they understand the restrictions on how other people's IP rights can be used, they should also realise the serious nature of trading in illegal goods and act appropriately.

You should have policies and procedures in place that employees are aware of, about how you will deal with incidences of IP crime occurring within your workplace. Ask your employees to inform you if itinerant sellers attempt to come into your workplace to deal in suspect goods, and tell your local trading standards office.

As well as thinking about the activities of your staff it is important to be aware of the risk of infringing IP rights as a business - either unwittingly (eg by continuing to use licensed material after your licence has expired) or deliberately by employees (eg an IT manager cutting costs by installing pirated software). If legal action is taken against the business in the civil courts you may be ordered to pay high costs and damages, and it is possible that you may even be charged with a criminal offence.

One of the most important things a business can do is introduce and maintain a culture that makes staff aware that IP infringement is as much a crime as financial theft. Ensure that everyone realises the importance of protecting the business' IP rights by reminding them regularly that IP crime will impact on the future of the business and therefore on their livelihoods. Combating IP crime is a partnership that involves everyone in a business - employees, management, suppliers and customers.

You can find resources and tools to help you understand IP crime issues on the GOV.UK website.