Intellectual property crime

Intellectual property crime is committed when someone manufactures, sells or distributes counterfeit or pirated goods for commercial gain. It is estimated to cost the economy at least £1.3 billion per year in lost profits and taxes (Intellectual Property Crime Report 2013/14) but it is difficult to give a precise figure on the scale. The majority of counterfeit goods still originate from China and the increasing use of the internet, particularly social media sites, has created a wide-reaching marketplace to facilitate the sale of counterfeit goods.

The type of counterfeit and pirated goods being produced and sold to consumers are many and varied, but generally they fall into the following categories:

  • Optical Digital media, such as software and games
  • Luxury clothing, footwear and accessories
  • Automotive parts, electrical items and other manufactured goods

Counterfeiting and distributing these goods requires different levels of expertise or techniques and attracts criminals of all types. For organised criminals, it is attractive because it offers a high financial return from, typically, a low investment.

Report intellectual property crime

Please report intellectual property crime to Action Fraud.

How to tell if something is fake

Price, packaging and where it’s on sale are three indicators to whether goods are counterfeit.

  • Packaging is often hard to spot, as it’s made to look like the real thing as much as possible. Often, it even carries the trade marks of genuine manufacturers
  • Many fakes are of inferior quality, and the impression given is that they are “end of line” or stolen rather than fake
  • With some luxury goods, such as watches, fakes are offered for sale at or near the normal price to reinforce the idea that they are genuine
  • Internet auction sites are an attractive outlet for fake digital media – DVDs, software and music - and many sites are working hard to limit criminal opportunities

Counterfeiting affects everyone

Counterfeiting is thought of as a victimless crime. However, consumers are at risk from poor quality or unsafe goods, such as fake pharmaceuticals or sun care products, some of which contain no active ingredients. Businesses also suffer economic harm through loss of sales which can lead to jobs losses, and the reputation of their brands suffers too. Higher prices, extra costs to law enforcement and loss of tax revenue affect all of us.

Further information

The Economic Crime command leads the NCA's fight against intellectual property crime. Find out more about the Economic Crime Command

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