Since September 2013, a new law enforcement unit has been tackling the problem of counterfeit goods across the UK; the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
PIPCU is a specialist national police unit based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police and is dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.
The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and has a remit to focus on online intellectual property crime.
Since launching in 2013, PIPCU has been building working relationships with industry and law enforcement partners across the globe to develop partnership working with a co-ordinated approach. To date the unit has worked alongside trading standards, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the US’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Interpol and Europol.
Since inception, the unit has received more than 200 referrals from brands, rights holders and brand protection organisations, arrested 44 people and seized approximately £2.5 million worth of fake goods. The team has also suspended more than 5,500 infringing websites – 98 per cent of which were suspended for selling fake goods, such as clothes, shoes and fashion accessories.
PIPCU not only deals with counterfeit goods but also with online copyright infringement. To date, the unit has diverted more than 9.8 million views from copyright infringing websites to a PIPCU domain suspension page. This is an official police message warning the user that the website they are trying to access is currently under investigation by PIPCU. The page also includes signposts to safe and reliable websites that provide legitimate access to music, films and books, as well as a link to the PIPCU website so users can find out more information about the unit.
Looking to the future
In October 2014 the IPO announced that the unit would receive a further £3 million from the IPO which will fund the unit up to 2017.
With funding for PIPCU secured for a further two years, the unit is looking at its future direction and goals.
Working closely with the IPO, it has been decided that whilst the unit will continue to facilitate the areas that have already been successful, it will also set out to explore new avenues and in the coming months, the team will be focusing on counterfeit goods in relation to consumer safety.
PIPCU is keen to engage with partners, particularly local trading standards teams, to build on existing partnerships as well as forming new working relationships and is interested in future joint investigations and operations. If you are interested in working with the unit or would like to discuss future possible collaborations please contact: PIPCU@cityoflondon.police.uk