Intellectual Property Rights | Use of Private Investigators


Counterfeit clothing branding

The trade in counterfeit goods continues to be a big problem in the import and export industry. Despite strict customs controls, the Counterfeiting Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce estimates that up to 7% of world trade is made up of counterfeit goods. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the amount of international trade in counterfeit goods rose from around £150 billion to £200 billion in value between 2005 and 2007, and continues to increase. It is likely that the true figure is much higher as the OECD does not take in to consideration non-international or online sales.

Businesses have the right to protect their intellectual property; this could be a patent, trademark, design or copyright, and can seek assistance from HM Revenue and Customs by submitting a National Intellectual Property Rights Application or a Community Intellectual Property Rights Application. According to, goods considered as infringing IP in international trade include:

  • counterfeit goods
    – incorporating any symbol, goods or packaging carrying or portraying a trade mark without authorisation
  • pirated goods
    – copies made without the consent of the copyright holder
  • patent-infringing goods
    – cover infringements of a patent under UK law
  • national or community plant variety right
    – covers infringements of plant varieties under UK and EU law
  • designations of origin or geographical indications infringing goods

The effect on businesses that have their Intellectual Property abused can be catastrophic. Potential damage to reputation and loss of profit and customers can put companies out of business altogether. There is also a very real risk to public safety; counterfeit consumables, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco have been found to contain alarming levels of toxic chemicals that could prove fatal to an unwitting customer. Terrifyingly even counterfeit medical supplies such as cancer treatment drugs have been discovered. Counterfeit electrical items would not have undergone safety testing and could pose the risk
of fire or electrocution.

The difficulty is identifying these goods. Counterfeiters today have developed highly sophisticated tactics to avoid detections, and can produce forgeries of such a high standard that they are almost impossible to tell apart from the genuine product. So, if a company believes they are being affected by an infringement of their intellectual property, but have unsuccessfully explored all options via HM Customs and Revenue, what can they do? It may well be worth hiring a private Investigation service.

A reputable Private Investigator will usually investigate the counterfeiting of money, documents, clothing and accessories such as shoes and handbags, CD’s and DVD’s, food, drink, drugs and tobacco and most general consumer goods.

We spoke to a highly regarded Christine Alexander from a Private Investigators in the capital who told us about various methods they may undertake to do this such as undercover investigation, intelligence and private investigation, creating a “ghost customer”, surveillance using a variety of covert equipment, tracking and the
monitoring and tracing of funds and accounts.Christine Alexander  told us that “Any substantial evidence gathered can then be presented to HM Revenue and Customs and would be admissible in a court of law in order to aid a successful prosecution”.

Topics: Protecting IP Abroad
Export Action Plan