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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ip-crime-and-enforcement-for-consumers/ip-crime-and-enforcement-for-consumers
1. IP rights infringement overview
IP rights are infringed when a product, creation or invention protected by IP laws are exploited, copied or otherwise used without the permission or consent of the person who owns those rights or their representative.
It can range from using technology protected by a patent to selling counterfeit medicines/software, copying a film and making it available online to selling counterfeit goods including clothing, makeup, and DVDs. All of these acts will constitute a civil infringement. However, in the case of trade marks, designs and copyright the act may also constitute a criminal offence if conducted in the course of a business.
A detailed list of IP offences including the respective penalties is available.
1.1 . Copyright infringement
Copyright is usually infringed when someone carries out any of the acts restricted by copyright without the rights holder permission, whether in respect of the whole or a substantial part of the work.
The author of a copyright work has the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the following acts also known as economic rights: reproduction, distribution, rental and lending, public performance, communication to the public by electronic transmission including broadcasting, adaptation.
Authors have also moral rights which protect non-economic interests. This includes the right to attribution, the right to object to derogatory treatment of a work, the right to object to false attribution and the right to privacy of certain photographs and films.
Information about trade marks, designs and patents infringement is available.
2. What to do if accused of infringing someone’s copyright
If you are accused of copyright infringement, the rights holder may wish to take action against you through the civil courts. You should be aware that you may be liable for damages relating to any proven infringement.
If you receive a notification of copyright infringement via letter, email, phone call or similar, you should take time to understand the allegation and try to determine the validity of the claim. Do not ignore it.
The Citizens Advice provides further information including detailed advice regarding internet filesharing, how to respond to copyright infringement claims and letter templates. If in doubt seek legal advice.
3. How to recognise IP crime and infringement
Criminals are always on the lookout for new opportunities to make a profit. IP criminal offences are often associated with organised crime groups who are dealing for profit in fake branded goods, pirated products, enable devices to access unauthorised content or websites offering unauthorised content for free.
3.1 . IP crime and infringement online (online shopping)
IP infringement online is usually carried out by scammers pretending to be legitimate online retailers, often using fake websites. Fraudsters very often trick consumers by creating fake websites using brand names with additional words in the domain and brands logos that look like genuine online retail stores.
Online auction sites such as eBay and online marketplaces such as Amazon have policies in place to ensure the consumers are protected against IP infringement. However, fraudsters are always looking for ways to infiltrate in such business models to deceive consumers. Don’t assume that just because you are buying from a well-known auction site or marketplace that you are immune to fakes.
One of the biggest tip-offs that consumers can look for, when using online retailers including mobile platforms, are scams relating to payment methods. Online retailers by and large use credit/debit cards or PayPal as payment methods. If you are asked to make a payment via money transfer such as bank transfer, you might not receive your goods and there will be little chance of recovering your money.
Things to look out for when buying online:
- Browser: watch out for domain names that contain the words genuine, replica or original, discount or offer. Also websites in English but with a domain from a foreign country.
- Payment: beware of retailers asking for payment to be made via bank transfer.
- https: well-known retailers use secure protocol “https”.
- Website: look out for grammar and/or spelling mistakes/poor pictures and dead links.
- Beware of websites offering heavily discounted prices.
- Search info about replicas and fakes of the product you intend to buy.
- Check reviews from other pages, forums and search engines.
- Returns policy: the vast majority of genuine sites have a sales and returns policy.
- Terms and conditions: a genuine company should display the website terms and conditions including what they do with your data.
- Contact us: check if the page contains full contact details including official email address.
- About us: check the history of the company.
There are various initiatives to guide consumers to legal content and genuine goods on legitimate websites including:
Get it right from a genuine site for music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport
Findanyfilm.com for films
Agorateka is a Pan-European portal of the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), offering searches through national-level portals that link to sites for music, film and television, e-books, video games and sports events
WHOIS lookup tool searches Nominet’s directory and returns information about the domain name searched for. This WHOIS lookup tool will return domain information for .uk, .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .sch.uk, .plc.uk, .ltd.uk, .cymru and .wales
Alternative ‘whois’ tools exist to enable searches of a range of domain names.
3.2 . IP crime and infringement in social media, mobile apps and games
The social media environment moves at fast pace and IP infringement in this area is usually driven by flash sales and heavily discounted items. In addition to trying to sell you counterfeit goods, scammers are often after your personal details to use in criminal activities.
One of the biggest tip-offs that consumers can look for, when using online retailers including mobile platforms, are scams relating to payment methods. Online retailers by and large use credit/debit cards or PayPal as payment methods. If you are asked to make a payment via money transfer such as bank transfer, you might not receive your goods and there will be little chance to recover your money.
Things to watch out for on social media:
- Heavily discounted goods and flash sales.
- Lots of updates and content published but little engagement with members.
- Request to disclose sensitive information or transfer money.
- Links being shared constantly in short periods of time.
- Account without verification or authentication signs.
- Fake profiles can contain original brand names.
- Social media advertisements with link to fake websites offering flash sales.
Things to look out for on mobile apps:
- Scams often presented as security updates, unexpected SMS or email with links, unusual requests which appears to be from your bank or well-known brands.
- Fake apps often offer heavily shopping discounts.
- Look out for spelling mistakes.
- Fake apps can contain original brand names.
Things to look out on game apps:
- Check permission, games requesting permission to send SMS or to make phone calls can be a bad sign.
- Check for download size, small file sizes could be a bad sign.
- First page of the reviews can be filled with fake high rates of the game to hide genuine poor reviews that are trying to warn others about the fake/scam game.
- If the game is not from a trusted app store, research the source of the game first.
- Scammers can use well-known game brands to trick consumers.
Visit AskAboutGames for more information.
3.3 . IP crime and infringement on the high street
IP infringement on the high street is often found on street markets and on high street markets in the suburbs amongst genuine retailers. A wide range of counterfeit and pirated products can be found including electrical and electronic products, watches, makeup, designer clothes and accessories, cigarettes and alcohol to name a few.
Counterfeit and pirated products are often produced using poor quality materials or banned substances putting consumers’ lives at risk.
Things to look out for on the high street:
- Price: check the price advertised against the recommended retail price of the genuine item. Big discounts can be a warning sign. If a bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Product Quality: trust your instincts. Does the article on offer feel like an authentic article? If not, better look elsewhere.
- Packaging: poor quality packaging, logos and spelling mistakes. If you spot one of these signs, walk away.
- Retailer: criminals on the high street are more often than not trading on street markets and high street markets in the suburbs amongst genuine retailers.
- Cash Payment: if you pay for a product using cash and realised afterwards that it’s a fake, your chances to return it and get your money back are very slim.
- Place and Product: high value and luxury products are often sold by authorised retailers only. Beware if you find them in small shops/stalls.
There are various initiatives to promote fake free high street markets including:
The Real Deal campaign for fake free markets nationwide
Other local initiatives include:
- The Real McCoy campaign in Scotland
- Fake Free Newport campaign in Newport, South Wales
4. How to report IP crime
Citizens Advice or call 03454 04 05 06.
For a Welsh-speaking advisor call 03454 04 05 05.
If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers or call 0800 555 111.
Your local Trading Standards authority is the leading agency enforcing criminal IP legislation. If you have concerns or are aware of any person or business that may be involved in IP crime, you can contact one of the organisations above.
Please note that if you have a complaint about goods or services, please contact Citizens Advice for information and advice. Trading Standards cannot help members of the public with specific complaints or advice about goods or services.