Intellectual property crime and your business

Protecting your business from intellectual property crime

Apart from ensuring that you have in place legal intellectual property (IP) protection, you can also put in place other mechanisms to ensure that you know as quickly as possible if your business is a victim of IP crime, and to better enable you to help enforcement agencies tackle fake and pirated products. To avoid IP crime you can:

  • Avoid the use of counterfeit components in your products and/or avoid the infiltration of counterfeit goods into your supply chain. To help with this, you can download the Supply Chain Toolkit from the GOV.UK website (PDF, 125K).
  • Put in place early warning systems so you know as soon as possible if counterfeit or pirated copies of your products are being made or sold. Ask your customers, suppliers and employees to help with this.
  • Ensure that your branded goods have packaging with special devices such as holographs, codes, watermarks, radio-frequency identification tags or integrated serial-number plates, and make sure that the enforcement agencies know how to read these devices. It also helps to change packaging designs slightly to frustrate counterfeiters.
  • Protect digital assets with watermarking, coding, encryption and other digital devices to frustrate potential pirates and counterfeiters.
  • Make sure that IP registrations are secure and up to date.
  • Maintain secure inventories, shred or eliminate sensitive waste, and ensure that all designs, design elements and production components are properly protected.

You will need to keep all of your protection mechanisms under review, and amend them regularly in the light of new threats.

Your business workplace may also be used as a site for IP crime. For more information, see the page in this guide on IP crime in the workplace.

Trade associations

Some businesses choose to join a trade association to help them protect their rights. These exist for different kinds of products, ranging from music to software, electrical products to luxury goods. These organisations can provide additional expertise and resources to pursue IP infringement and help prevent IP crime.

Protecting your goods from infringing imports

If you suspect that goods infringing your rights are arriving at UK borders, you should lodge an application for action (AFA) with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). If border officers then identify counterfeit goods being imported, they can detain them for ten days (or up to 20 under an extension), giving you time to launch court action.

You will have to confirm with officials that the goods are infringing your rights, and may have to pay the costs of seizing and storing the goods.

IP Crime Group

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) also has a specialist National IP Crime Group, which brings together expert resources including senior industry, government and enforcement agency officials to combat IP crime. You can find guidance on IP crime and infringement on the GOV.UK website.