IP Theft – is there ever a true victim?

Image courtesy of David Shankbone

Intellectual property theft (IP Theft) is a major problem across the Globe. Counterfeit goods or “knock-offs”, as they are often referred to, are internationally distributed via local markets and this business is a multi-million pound international criminal enterprise. Often this is seen as a victimless crime but in reality it is a destructive and a widespread criminal activity perpetrated by career criminals, the proceeds of which are often used to fund other criminal activities as well as terrorism.

A Growing  Enterprise

There has been a distinct and rapid growth in the distribution and sale of these counterfeit goods from DVDs and computer games to leather goods and other much sort after fashion items. The popularity of the internet has made the logistics of the illicit business easier and as a consequence has succeeded in creating a wider market for “knock-offs”.

Some counterfeit goods that are on sale are clearly identified as such and therefore there is no intention to deceive the public as such but merely to capitalise on the popularity of a trademark or copyrighted item. Nevertheless stealing the brand name of a company or product, and using it on what can only be considered sub-standard goods, is a crime that will affect everyone in the long run.

Painting the Forth Bridge

There are also web sites and other more traditional outlets such as market stalls and car-boot sales that sell the counterfeit version of goods giving absolute assurance to the buyer that the items for sale are genuine. As well as the rogue manufacturer stealing the intellectual property and counterfeiting the goods, the vendors and sales outlets are also defrauding people who unwittingly purchase the counterfeit goods. It is facts that as quickly as some counterfeiting operations are closed down new “knock-off” producing operations are springing up in other locations just as quickly, therefore investigating these activities can be somewhat akin to ‘painting the Forth Bridge’.

Investigations and Intelligence Gathering

Having been involved in the investigation of intellectual property theft and counterfeiting for some years I know that successful investigation has to be intelligence-led. It is only with help from the majority of law-abiding citizens that intelligence can be gathered to assist in the investigation process and ultimate shutting down of counterfeiting operations.

As a significant amount of large Companies and popular name- brands are investing heavily in protecting their brands the need for professional investigators that specialise in anti-counterfeiting has never been more apparent. Those PIs that arm themselves with the requisite skills will always be be the obvious choice for large companies looking to protect their investments.