UK aims to be gold standard in IP Counter-Infringement Strategy

The UK IPO has published its five year strategy for protecting IP with the aim of ensuring that IP rights in the UK are some of the best protected in the world. The strategy intends to unite enforcement agencies, government and industry to work together to better tackle IP crime and infringement in a strategic and effective manner.

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In particular, there are 5 key commitments from the UKIPO:

  • to establish a national centre of excellence for the development and analysis of intelligence relating to IP infringement, placing this at the core of IP enforcement activity and ensuring it takes a central lead and coordination role in the fight against IP crime and infringement
  • to work with Trading Standards, Border Force and the Police to embed IPO funded IP crime coordinators and champions in local regions to develop intelligence, coordinate activity and resource the fight against IP crime and infringement
  • to work collaboratively with enforcement agencies to review how IP crime is recorded
  • to develop the structures and membership of the IP Crime Group – enabling it to have a strategic and tactical enforcement focus across government, enforcement agencies and industry
  • to develop impactful campaigns to reduce IP crime and infringement, working with partners and focusing on both those knowingly and unknowingly infringing

The UKIPO intends to achieve its commitments using an intelligence led focus that includes partnerships, leadership and education as its core themes.

The strategy will be welcomed by content owners who frequently suffer from piracy, particularly as the demand for content continues to grow. Specifically, the rise of cyber crime has become an important issue for media businesses of all sizes and the ease with which websites can be opened and closed has presented particular challenges for content owners seeking to enforce their IP rights.

If, as the strategy intends, the UK can develop superior intelligence relating to online copyright infringement, this would certainly be a positive step towards more effective enforcement moving forwards. Matters improved after the introduction of Operation Creative and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in 2013, who have had some success in disrupting websites making copyright infringing material available to consumers. However, the lack of resource in various government agencies intended to fight IP crime and infringement has historically led to low levels of investigation and prosecution, despite there being criminal copyright offences.

At the heart of the strategy is the aim to educate consumers about the dangers of IP crime and dispel the perception, from those who knowingly use copyright works, that pirated content is a “good deal”. If achieved, this would no doubt help reduce the demand for this type of content in the market and drum out the notion that infringement of IP is a low-risk, high-reward crime. The UKIPO has also been considering the introduction of statutory damages to English copyright law, in part because of their ability to increase the disincentives for infringers (more information on this can be found here).

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