Patricia Jones, a specialist IP lawyer writes, “Most people associate Trading Standards with seizures of counterfeit DVDs and clothing. In fact the role of Trading Standards is far greater than this. Trading Standards can seize any goods to which a registered trade mark has been applied without consent. For example we have recently worked alongside Trading Standards in the seizure of machine parts that had been labelled with our client’s trade mark”.
Trading Standards is the body responsible for enforcing the criminal aspects of trade mark law. There are three main criminal offences in relation to trade marks which cover acts such as applying an infringing mark to goods, making or using packaging bearing an offending mark and making or keeping articles designed for reproducing an offending mark.
Trading Standards are given extensive and wide-reaching powers of enforcement under the Trade Marks Act 1994 for the purposes of ascertaining whether an offence has been committed. These powers include the right to enter premises and inspect and seize goods and documents. The powers are exercisable without a search warrant and any person who obstructs an officer exercising his powers is liable to be prosecuted.
Prosecutions can be brought by Trading Standards and are heard in either the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. Offences committed under the criminal aspects of trade mark law carry with them penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. Often the seizure of goods by Trading Standards is quicker and cheaper than enforcing trade mark law through civil proceedings.
This highlights one of the benefits of having a registered trade mark as Trading Standards can only exercise their powers when dealing with a registered trade mark.