Avoiding crime and fraud in international trade

Understanding intellectual property crime


Intellectual property (IP) is the collection of unique ideas, products or information that adds commercial value to your business. IP includes copyrights, patents, trade marks, industrial design rights, plant breeders' rights and plant variety protections and logos. Read more about intellectual property protection overseas.

Find information on the different types of IP protection.

Types of IP fraud

IP fraud is difficult to measure but steadily on the increase. Illegal imports threaten the trade of legitimate UK businesses.

Current crimes include:

  • importing illegal goods, such as counterfeit, pirated, or patent-infringing goods
  • importing plants or seeds that infringe national or community plant variety rights
  • imports that infringe designations of origin or geographical indications, for example 'Champagne' that is simply fizzy wine

There are many different types of IP crime - you can learn more about IP crime.

Unwittingly, some honest UK businesses commit IP fraud by buying goods from suppliers abroad who are infringing other businesses' IP rights. Importers must check that suppliers are legitimate and that their imports aren't infringing existing IP rights belonging to competitors. Read more about vetting business partners.

What to do if you suspect your IP rights have been infringed

Under European Union (EU) law, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) can protect your business' IP against illegal imports. With your help, officers from the UK Border Agency can identify, seize or destroy counterfeit goods. You should examine a sample of the goods and the suspected counterfeits may be tested and verified by a testing agency.

If you think fraudulent goods are arriving in the UK, ask HMRC for help. You can apply for customs action at the UK border.

Customs officers will also take action for you in two or more EU member states.