The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) – a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the legitimate UK industries that produce hard goods and digital content from Intellectual Property (IP) crime – has ensured that £719 million of such crime has been disrupted since its inception in 2013. The news comes after the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) recently announced that it would continue to fund the PIPCU beyond June this year.
In 2018, the PIPCU tackled counterfeit airbags, joined forces with the IPO to stop the sale of counterfeit poppy merchandise and urged consumers to avoid counterfeit electrical goods. The PIPCU’s Operation Ashiko has also been at the forefront of taking down 66,558 websites since 2013 which were believed to be selling counterfeit products. Of those sites taken down, 33,625 were believed to be selling counterfeit clothing.
In addition to the PIPCU’s work to clampdown on counterfeit hard goods, it’s also combating digital piracy through Operation Creative, a ground-breaking initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content. The initiative is led by the PIPCU in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.
The operation has added 1,646 websites to its Infringing Website List (IWL) and has suspended 1,861. The first of its kind to be developed, the IWL is an online portal containing an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified and evidenced by the creative industries and verified by the PIPCU. The aim of the IWL is that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries can voluntarily decide to cease advert placement on these illegal websites which, in turn, disrupts the sites’ advertising revenue.
Disrupting advertising is a vital part of Operation Creative. Advertising is a key generator of criminal profits for websites providing access to infringing content. A study carried out by Ernst & Young in 2017 revealed that the top 672 piracy sites generated $111 million per year.
The PIPCU’s success has led to a number of international police forces working with it to implement similar departments themselves.
DCI Teresa Russell of the PIPCU said: “The PIPCU has become a leader in IP enforcement. It has combated counterfeit hard goods and digital piracy to such a high level that it’s now being held up as an example to other forces internationally. To have disrupted £719 million worth of IP crime over the past five years is a remarkable achievement and something that we will continue to build upon in the coming year.”
Dr Ros Lynch, director of copyright and enforcement at the IPO, added: “Partnership working is vital in the fight against IP crime. We’re delighted that our collaboration with the PIPCU has led to demonstrable success in disrupting this type of criminal activity.”