New act facilitates fight against trademark infringement

United Kingdom

The Copyright, etc and Trademarks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002 has come into force, beefing-up the United Kingdom's copyright and trademark legislation. The act is intended to facilitate the fight against copyright and registered trademark infringement (particularly counterfeiting) by, among other things, extending the criminal sanctions provided for by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and Trademarks Act 1994 respectively.

The main changes introduced by the new act are the following:

  • The maximum penalty on indictment for making or dealing with copyright infringing materials, illicit recordings or unauthorized decoders is increased from two years' to 10 years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine, mirroring the sanctions for infringement of registered trademarks;

  • The police may apply for a forfeiture order in respect of copyright infringing items, illicit recordings or unauthorized decoders, mirroring the forfeiture provisions in relation to unauthorized use of registered trademarks; and

  • The police may obtain search warrants and seize goods when it is reasonably suspected that an offence in relation to copyright or registered trademarks has been or is about to be committed.

These changes provide a more cost effective (and time efficient) alternative to civil court proceedings; the costs associated with a police search are less than the costs associated with obtaining a search order in the civil courts. Nevertheless, their success depends on the police exercising their new powers to investigate reported offences.

Jeremy Drew, Ashurst Morris Crisp, London

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