im_format_av1The Sentinel newspaper, circulated in Staffordshire and South Cheshire reports on the trial of six men who have been found guilty and are awaiting sentence for their part in an international plot to smuggle 25 tonnes of counterfeit soap powder into Britain.

The gang arranged for “low grade” detergent to be shipped from South East China to Felixstowe to try to flood the black market with fake Persil. The detergent, which had no bleach content, was then driven to a warehouse where the gang hid 2,900 empty replica Persil boxes, which were described as “almost perfect” copies of the real thing. But their scam failed after chemicals giant Unilever hired a private investigator and they were caught red-handed.

Five of the six men admitted possession of an infringing article with a view to sale between September 1 and September 30, 2008.  A sixth man was found guilty after denying the charge. Chester Crown Court heard the detergent was shipped from Jinjang in the Fujian province of South East China to Felixstowe on a container ship CSLC Asia.  It was then transported to a unit at the Phoenix Centre on Winsford Industrial Estate which was raided after Unilever received a tip-off from a member of the public.

Peter Moss, prosecuting, said: “At 10.55am on September 23, 2008, in a joint operation by Cheshire Police, Cheshire West Council and Trading Standards, officers raided the unit at the Phoenix Centre and found an Aladdin’s cave of detergent. Individual bags of detergent each weighing nine kilograms were found along with flat pack boxes which had been assembled using a ‘wooden contraption’.”  The court heard Unilever’s private investigator had been tracking the gang’s moves since the detergent arrived in Felixstowe on August 22, 2008. The replica boxes followed around two weeks later.

The court heard the investigator was aware that a van bearing the logo NJN Trade Supplies, a company set up by Charlesworth and Campbell and based at High Carr Industrial Estate, Chesterton, was being used to transport the goods.  Prosecutors believe the Chesterton site was a planned distribution centre for the boxes of fake powder and the detergent was collected from Felixstowe and driven to the warehouse.  All six have been found guilty and are now awaiting sentencing.

ACID comment, “This is a classic example where criminal sanctions can result in infringers being prosecuted for a crime.  ACID Lobby is still campaigning for criminal sanctions to be available to design right holders too, who may also wish to take action against copyists.  This, together with changes to the criminal damages regime would make an even playing field for companies – irrespective of what intellectual property rights they are holding.”

Copying issues were also covered by BBC News also reported on the largest ever seizure of counterfeit goods by UK police.  Counterfeit seizure

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