Intellectual Property: Counterfeiting - Government Consultation

By Rosanna Cooper

Intellectual Property ("IP") crime (counterfeiting and piracy as it is more widely known), has grown considerably over the past 10 years and is reported to have serious economic effects both in the UK and globally. Ineffective enforcement of intellectual property rights ("IPRs") is a significant cost to industry in terms of damage to innovation and wealth creation.

On 15 June 2005, the UK Patent Office launched a consultation on implementing regulations that would make it simpler to enforce IPRs across the European Community. Directive 2004/48/EC ("the Directive") is intended to harmonise best practice (some derived from the UK) across the European Community rather than leading to substantial changes in our IP enforcement procedures and practices. The Directive is aimed at individuals and companies developing new technologies and products to give them greater confidence that their inventions/innovations will be protected. Most business sectors should benefit from this Directive as many are vulnerable to the infringement of their IPRs.

A summary of the Directive's main provisions:-

Member States shall apply effective, dissuasive and proportionate remedies and sanctions against those engaged in counterfeiting and piracy; Member States are required to have similar measures and remedies in place to defend right-holders' IP across the European Community; and The Directive protects both 'traditional' rights such as copyright, trademarks, patents and designs, but also a number of other more specific rights such as geographical indications of origin and plant varieties. The UK Patent Office is keen to receive responses from anyone interested in the enforcement of IP rights in the United Kingdom - but especially from those who expect to be users of the system. Responses must be received by 7 October 2005. For more information please visit the UK Patent Office's Consultation website.

The UK Patent Office continues to work with enforcement and industry partners to fight such crime. The IP Crime Group has set out a four-point action plan based on the first National IP Crime Strategy published last August namely:-

The setting up of an intelligence database to allow enforcement groups to share information;

Training for trading standards officers to enable them to deal effectively with IP crime;

Establishing a base line assessment of IP crime and publishing annual enforcement reports to monitor success; and Greater collaboration between national and international government agencies.

The European Commission has also suggested criminal sanctions to combat IPR infringement. The European Council and Parliament are now taking the Commission proposals forward for further discussion and development.

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