Best practice toolkit launched to help fight against counterfeiting and piracy

United Kingdom
A new 'best practice supply chain toolkit', which was produced by the IP Crime Group of the UK Intellectual Property Office, was launched on January 26 2009. The IP Crime Group aims to provide businesses with practical advice on how they can better protect themselves from the dangers of fake goods entering business supply chains. The supply chain toolkit includes a step-by-step guide on what action should be taken if counterfeits are found within the supply chain and advice on how to protect IP assets.
According to David Lammy, the minister for intellectual property, counterfeiting and piracy in relation to intellectual property has increased worldwide to over $200 billion per year, with tens of billions of pounds worth of counterfeit goods being seized across national borders each year. The Rogers Review of national enforcement priorities for local authority regulatory services (2007) stated that IP crime is worth £1.3 billion in the United Kingdom alone, with £900 million of this flowing to organized crime.
Over the last decade, the increase in IP crime has spread from small industries producing poor-quality, counterfeit fashion accessories and goods, to massive manufacturing plants producing cheap copies of everything from electrical appliances to medicines. Often these cheap copies can be very dangerous. Many businesses rely on goods received through supply chains, often from many different suppliers, and are thus at risk from counterfeiting and piracy, unless effective systems and agreements are put in place to tackle this problem.
The supply chain toolkit appears to place a great deal of emphasis on:

  • protecting all the intellectual property that a business has at its core; and
  • ensuring that staff are fully educated in order to detect criminal activity and identify which IP assets are worth protecting and registering. 
Other pieces of advice include:

  • keeping very detailed inventories (including product numbers) about products being shipped in order to aid law enforcement authorities;
  • using 'mystery shoppers' to buy back products sold to distributors;
  • checking that products are priced, packaged and labelled correctly and lawfully;
  • making certain that, when disposing of damaged goods, these are deposited with legitimate and auditable partners; and
  • policing online auction sites and reporting any sellers of counterfeit goods to the auction site owner. 
One of the most interesting suggestions is to ensure that any product packaging is of a high quality and that shipping boxes actually depict the enclosed product, as very few counterfeiters will include the manufacturer's details, safety guarantees and model numbers on the shipping manifests and outer shipping containers. The IP Crime Group also wants business owners to take an active role in any investigation to assist law enforcement agencies with limited resources to combat counterfeiting and piracy.
All businesses, including those in the service sectors, could doubtless benefit from a review of their current practices to ensure that:
  • all IP rights that can be protected are being vigilantly acquired and monitored; and
  • education of staff as to the importance of monitoring counterfeiting and piracy is kept current. 
The supply chain toolkit is a welcome initiative to educate businesses about the risks of counterfeiting and piracy. As Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, stated: “SMEs face genuine challenges at this time of economic stress and the toolkit is of real and timely support."
Désirée Fields, McDermott Will & Emery UK LLP, London

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