Trading Standards officers in the UK are to get greater authority and a further £5m to help fight video game piracy.
Trade and Industry Minister Malcolm Wicks told the Intellectual Property Crime Group in London that new powers under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, backed up with £5m in new funding, will be at the disposal of Trading Standards officers and other UK enforcement agencies from 6 April.
"There will be an additional 4,500 pairs of Trading Standards eyes watching counterfeiters and pirates. This will mean more surprise raids at markets and boot sales, more intelligence, more prosecutions and more criminals locked up," he said.
"Intellectual property criminals should know that the UK is not a safe place. The risk of 10 years' imprisonment and unlimited fines is very real, and is now a markedly higher risk."
Wicks added that the new powers will enable enforcement officers to make test purchases, enter premises and inspect and seize goods and documents.
"The UK film, music and game industries are among the most creative and innovative in the world, but peddlers of counterfeits are costing those industries up to £9bn a year," he said.
"The taxpayer is also losing out to the tune of £300m. It is a serious offence, whether committed by small-scale hawkers or international crime organisations."
Trading Standards officers are delighted with the move which should help them increase their effectiveness and expand into areas they have not previously been able to target.
Steve Lynch, of Essex Trading Standards, said: "Trading Standards officers have long believed that these additional powers will provide an important new weapon in our fight against organised criminals dealing in counterfeit and pirate goods."
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