Intellectual Property Infringement - A Criminal Crack Down

01 Feb 2017

In most cases the infringement of intellectual property in the UK is dealt with through the Civil Court Justice system with rights holders bringing civil proceedings against alleged infringers relying upon their registered or unregistered intellectual property rights in the jurisdiction.  In many cases, however, the infringement of an intellectual property right can also amount to a criminal offence with criminal sanctions available against the infringer(s).

There is, in fact, a specialist national police unit, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), which is dedicated to protecting UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime. It comprises of a team, consisting of detectives, analysts and researchers and is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud.

The unit is dedicated to tackling serious and organised intellectual property crime (counterfeit and piracy) affecting physical and digital goods (with the exception of pharmaceutical goods) with a focus on offences committed using an online platform.

Over the past couple of months there have been several high profile convictions of infringers as a result of investigations conducted by PIPCU.  The most notable conviction is that by Nottingham Crown Court of Mr Terry O’Reilly, a supplier of illegal IPTV and android-type boxes, who was jailed for four years. A second supplier who worked with O’Reilly, Mr Will O’Leary, pleaded guilty and received a two-year suspended prison sentence.

The IPTV devices suppled by Mr O'Reilly and Mr O'Leary included apps and other add-ons which scanned the internet searching for illegal streams which enabled viewers to watch unauthorised content including those of Premier League football matches.

Earlier this month in another case, a Mr Ashraf Takawy was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 21 months, suspended for two years, plus a four month curfew order following an investigation by PIPCU.

Mr Takawy purchased fake goods from China and set up a website ‘’ to market fake branded perfumes, cosmetics and hair straighteners. He also marketed the items on internet auction rooms as genuine goods.

Following Mr Takawy's arrest, 41 fake hair straighteners and 219 fake branded perfume bottles were seized by the police with a total expected sale price of around £21,000.

While criminal prosecutions are likely to remain the exception in the UK in cases of intellectual property infringement rather than the rule, it is clear that increased funding of PIPCU coupled with the growth in the digital economy (both legitimate and illegitimate) will make convictions like these more common with infringers risking more than just an order against them imposing an injunction and requiring them to pay damages but also the loss of their liberty in the form of a custodial sentence.

For further information regarding intellectual property or any IP issues that you or your business maybe experiencing, please contact:

Further reading

What’s the state of Employment Status?

Blog, News & PR
Rebecca Thornley-Gibson highlights the challenges faced by businesses who struggle to determine employment status and the impact this has on innovative operating models
Read more Read

Employer's question: how to effectively deal with stress related sickness in lockdown

There are a variety of contributing factors caused by the pandemic that have seen a rise in stress related claims at work, but how can employers deal with this more effectively?
Read more Read

Use of statutory demand to make company insolvent suspended until June

Blog, Legal Updates
Cheraine Williams looks at more temporary Covid-driven measures that will protect businesses and tenants from possible legal action
Read more Read

New guidance issued for valuation of flats and investigating fire safety

Blog, Legal Updates
Cheraine Williams looks a the current situation facing leaseholders looking to sell or re-finance their property; will new guidance provide clarity?
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street


    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street


    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road



    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax


    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane


    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch