On 10 May 2016 the UK Intellectual Property Office published a strategy document setting out the Government's intellectual property enforcement strategy for the next four years.
The paper sets out three core strategic ambitions. These are to ensure that:
- UK businesses, including small businesses, are more confident operating internationally as a result of better IP protection globally;
- Rights owners and rights users have access to proportionate and effective mechanisms to resolve disputes and tackle IP infringement; and
- Consumers and users are educated to the benefits of respecting IP rights, and do so.
One area in which action has already been taken is cooperation between the China-British Business Council (CBBC) and the Alibaba Group. In 2014 an agreement was signed to tackle counterfeit goods sold on Alibaba e-commerce platforms with the aim of helping UK companies remove counterfeit goods from Alibaba platforms. This has been successful and such cooperation could be extended to other internet companies in China.
The government intends to concentrate future actions in six key areas:
- Reducing the level of illegal content online;
- Tackling the trade in counterfeit goods;
- Further strengthening the legal framework to facilitate easier access to justice;
- Increasing education, awareness and building respect for IP;
- Making it safer for UK rights holders and businesses to trade internationally; and
- Improving the evidence base for IP enforcement policy.
There will be a review of notice and takedown procedures to improve and streamline the process. Also a notice and 'trackdown' system will be considered which would enable rights holders to take action directly against an identified infringer. A further aim is to clarify EU rules governing platform liability.
Tackling counterfeit goods requires cooperation and coordination by various enforcement partners. To this end, the Home Office Serious and Organised Crime Strategy will continue to provide a dedicated intelligence hub. Key countries identified as involved in counterfeit activity are China, Hong Kong, India, Turkey and Pakistan and resources will be targeted at helping those countries improve their IP laws, identify criminals and stem the flow of counterfeit goods. Further, the UK Poise framework for enforcement initiatives, developed by UKIPO, can be promoted to international organisations such as Europol, Interpol, OLAF, EUIPO and the UN with the aim of disrupting international the supply chain.
More use will be made of the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate money and assets from criminals involved in counterfeiting. And streamlining of import and export procedures will lead to better enforcement across the agencies with border responsibiities.
Following the success of the IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) in England and Wales demand for a similar system in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be assessed. The IPO Mediation Service and IPO Opinions Service will also be promoted.
Another possibility is legislation against intermediaries such as fulfilment houses, search engines, ISPs and other platforms that facilitate infringement and counterfeiting, or to deal with illegal streaming via set top boxes.
It is important to educate consumers of all ages to improve respect for IP rights and genuine goods. Reaching consumers and changing behavior is challenging but steps will be taken to change attitudes.
Increasing international engagement
Collaboration will continue with overseas partners, both existing and new. It is important to ensure that businesses are not deterred from trading internationally by concern about possible IP theft.
Improving the evidence base
This is likely to include an IPEC case database and the annual publication of IPEC claims data in addition to publication of criminal IP case data in the IP Crime Report.
We are delighted that the Government has put so much thought and effort into measures to facilitate IP enforcement and reduce problems of counterfeiting. We will continue to watch and report on developments as implementation progresses.