By Stuart Fuller
In quite an extraordinary move, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have published a report this week on a specific micro-economy in Manchester, dubbed “Counterfeit Street”. The fact that such a detail report has been commissioned on such a small part of the United Kingdom underlines how big a problem intellectual property infringement still is in certain parts of the country.
The report details the activities of Cheetham Hill to the north of the city centre where goods worth £5 million have recently been seized. Intellectual Property Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe highlights the area as one where “income tax and consumer safety are simply ignored” in the introduction to the report, to remind us all that online IP infringement is not just the only concern for major brands today.
The variety of goods seized in raids in 2013 includes designer clothing, jewellery, perfumes and electronics with a value of up to £1m. However, this wasn’t a one off event. Back in 1984 the Daily Mirror reported how it was able to purchase designer clothes for a fraction of the cost, whilst in 2010 the HMRC seized 25,000 litres of counterfeit vodka, which had cost the economy over £240,000 in lost excise. However, it was the week long enforcement activity in November 2014 that has hit the headlines with over £5 million worth of counterfeit goods seized, including significant amounts of tobacco.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe said she had raised concerns about the "counterfeiting hotbed" that continues to thrive there and there would now be a concerted effort to disrupt the activity of crime groups. The report said the concentration of counterfeiters in the area has "negative consequences for the local community and economy, as well as the harm of associated criminality such as money laundering, organised crime group involvement, drug dealing and violence".
There is no denying that local authorities such as Trading Standards and the Police are trying to stay on top of the problems. Cheetham Hill is by no means unique in the United Kingdom. Counterfeit goods are seized as a matter of course on a daily basis, however the scale of the operation and the links to much deeper criminal activity meant that no single agency could tackle the issue.