UK Anti-counterfeiting Law Strengthened

United Kingdom

A new UK law has changed the penalties for copyright and trade mark theft and help enforcement agencies to pursue the infringers.

The Copyright, etc Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002 received Royal Assent on 24 July 2002 and came into force on 20 November 2002. The Act amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994. The main provisions of the Act are:

  • Increasing penalties for copyright offences from 2 years to 10 years imprisonment and/or unlimited fine in line with trade mark law and conspiracy to defraud, this also now applies to the production of unauthorised decoders
  • Strengthening police search warrant power so that warrants may be obtained for all copyright and trade mark offences, including possession and sale of infringing articles
  • In executing the warrant any article may be seized if the police reasonably believe it is evidence of infringement e.g. copyright owner or a trade association may request police to enter the premises of a business suspected of using unlicensed software and seize any PC and server on which the software may be stored to use as evidence
  • Amending the law on forfeiture of copyright infringement to be consistent with trade mark infringement so that all such infringing goods which have been seized can be ordered by the court to be forfeited

Last year UK industry lost £8.5 billion from fake goods, and the Exchequer lost £1.5 billion in unpaid VAT. One in three software applications is unlicensed, and nine in ten computer games sold are pirate copies. There is growing evidence that the money raised from cheap counterfeits is funding organised crime, the drug trade and terrorism. Following the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the FBI found strong evidence that the terrorists had financed their acts by selling counterfeit textiles on Broadway. There is also evidence that the funding of the IRA and ETA is linked to counterfeit handbags, clothes and pirate videos. Counterfeiting is a popular way of raising cash for such groups because it has a high profit margin and sanctions have rarely been enforced. The new act will make it easier for rights owners and trade associations to protect intellectual property rights and reduce the profitability of counterfeiting.

For further information, please contact Stephen Whybrow by telephone on +44 (0)20 7367 2183 or by e-mail at, Susan Barty by telephone on +44 (0)20 7367 2542 or by e-mail at, Lucy Kilshaw by telephone on +44 (0)20 7367 2376 or by e-mail at or Lydia Watts by telephone on +44 (0)20 7367 2054 or by e-mail at