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Reviewed 23 September 2011

Minister launches new IP guidance for businesses on visit to Scotland

A new guide for businesses to make sure they don't fall foul of intellectual property laws has been launched today. Preventing Infringement of Intellectual Property (IP) Rights in the Workplace provides companies with advice on how they can make sure they and their employees are not illegally using other people's intellectual property.

Criminal IP offences can take place in the workplace in a variety of ways. These include:

  • employees selling copies of protected works or supplying fake goods within the working environment;
  • company servers and equipment being used to make available infringing content to the internet with the knowledge of management;
  • using the work intranet to offer for sale infringing products to colleagues;
  • external visitors entering your premises to sell counterfeit and pirated items; and
  • using unlicensed software on business computer systems with the knowledge of management.

Copyright, patent, trade mark or design infringement could result in civil action or, in some cases of trade mark and copyright infringement criminal action being taken against the offending individual or company. If found guilty under criminal law, offenders are liable to a fine of up to £50,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to ten years.

The online guide was announced by Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox during a visit to the Scottish Intellectual Property (IP) Crime Group in Glasgow. The group is formed from intellectual property specialists, police and trading standards officers who meet on a regular basis to discuss IP crime issues.

Baroness Wilcox said:

"This new free guidance is a great example of government, enforcement agencies and industry working together to raise awareness of the importance of managing intellectual property in the workplace. I would urge companies of all sizes to look at the guidance so they know how to protect their own IP and how to respect the IP of others. If they don't, they expose themselves to the risk of legal action and risk damaging their own reputation and brand.

"Intellectual property rights are essential to the success and growth of any business. However, many companies can leave themselves open to prosecution if they or their staff infringe the IP rights belonging to other companies or individuals.”

The guide and tools have been developed by the National IP Crime Group, involving industry, enforcement and government agencies, including the Intellectual Property Office, to tackle the problems of IP crime in the workplace.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), said:

"This is a tremendously valuable resource for businesses as it will guide them through the legal minefield that is intellectual property in the workplace. This simple to use, free service will give advice on everything from setting up IP policies through to how to report IP crime.  FAST is delighted to have helped in its development as we see this as an important educational tool in the fight against software misuse in the office.”

Susie Winter, Director General at Alliance Against IP Theft said:

"It is important that businesses protect themselves from the dangers of IP infringement taking place in the work place, from illegal unlicensed software being installed on company computer systems and employees running illegal music and audio-visual filesharing systems, to counterfeit goods and DVDs being sold by staff or callers and the illegal or unlicensed copying of published material.

"The Alliance is delighted, therefore, to have worked with the IPO to produce this comprehensive guidance for businesses which will help them protect themselves and their staff from the consequences of unlawful activity."

Notes to editors

  • The new guidance is now available on the IPO website.
  • The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is within the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
  • Its role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge-based economy.
  • It operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to Intellectual Property (IP) to which the United Kingdom is a party.
  • For further information, please contact Dan Palmer on 0207 215 5303 or e-mail communications.

Date of release: 23 September 2011