IP Outreach Research > IP Crime


Title: The Hidden Marketplace - Protecting Intellectual Property in the Workplace
Author: Patricia Lennon

UK Intellectual Property Office

Year: 2008


Subject/Type: Counterfeiting, Piracy
Focus: Apparel and Shoes, Beverages, Fashion Accessories, Film, Food Products, Music, Personal Care Products, Software, Tobacco Products, Toys, Video Games
Country/Territory: United Kingdom
Objective: To get a better picture of what is happening in the workplace in terms of buying and selling pirated and counterfeit goods.
Sample: 1.009 adults working at manager level or above aged 18+ (employers survey); 27 trading standards officers across England and Wales (enforcement survey)
Methodology: Online survey (employers); Telephone interviews (trading standards officers)

Main Findings

92% of surveyed employers agreed that the protection of intellectual property (IP) is an essential business activity. However, of those agreeing with this statement, just 30% register trademarks, 27% take action against infringements of their IP, 27% train employees about the importance of IP, and 17% register patents.

More than half of all organisations surveyed (56%) allow employees to advertise items for sale to other members of staff (mostly via notice boards and the intranet). 20% of employers were aware of DVDs and music CDs being sold by staff members in their workplace; 19% of toiletries/make-up and toys; 18% of clothes; 14% of software; and 12% of designer accessories such as handbags, belts and shoes.

19% of those employers aware of DVDs being sold by staff in the workplace reported that these were counterfeit. 13% of respondents aware of music CDs being sold in the workplace claimed that these were counterfeit. Just 3% of respondents stated that clothes sold in the workplace were counterfeit. 9% of those aware of software being sold in the workplace claimed that the items sold were pirated. 10% of those aware of designer accessories being bought and sold reported that these were counterfeit. 3% of toiletries and make-up being sold was assumed to be counterfeit. None of the respondents was aware of any fake toys being sold in their workplace.

31% of employers allowing external sellers to enter company premises and aware of what they sell reported that DVDs and music CDs sold are counterfeit or were unsure about their legitimacy. Likewise, 34% claimed that clothes sold are counterfeit or did not know about their authenticity.

If aware of counterfeit or pirated products being sold in their organisation, 73% would take steps to stop such activity. 27% do not know, might buy them or would not do anything. 73% were unaware of a case involving a staff member selling pirated/counterfeit goods; 13% have given oral warnings to counterfeit sellers; 8% have given written warnings; 5% reported dismissal as a consequence, and a further 5% brought in an external enforcement agency. Just 1% did not take action.

Overall, just 6% of respondents reported that their business permits staff members to download or fie-share copyright material. Seven in ten businesses use at least one formal method of communicating to staff that downloading without the copyright owners’ permission is not permitted. However, one in two businesses were not in touch with whether their business software was fully licensed.

When asked about their own personal attitude towards counterfeiting, 78% of employers agreed that they would not allow external sellers to sell counterfeits on their premises (15% would allow this). 69% would prevent employees from buying counterfeits at work (14% would not). 81% would prevent employees from selling counterfeits at work (3% would not). 82% do not agree with the statement that “there is nothing wrong in selling counterfeit or pirated goods” (7% agree). 72% would find it useful to receive information and advice to improve understanding of IP in their organisation.

Trading standards officers reported that by far the most common product type that emerged in investigations concerning IP crime committed in the workplace by employees concerned DVDs (15 cases). Music, clothing/accessories and computer games were mentioned in 4 cases, and there was one instance of a staff member selling business software. Such products are commonly “advertised” via word of mouth and circulation of lists.

The study author draws the following conclusions: businesses need to be made more aware of what is happening in their workplaces; a heavy-handed approach is not the answer; businesspeople need to take responsibility; information and assistance for employers is required; providing materials for enforcement officers would be welcome.

[Date Added: Apr 9, 2009 ]