The British government has unveiled its national strategy to crack down on piracy. The government's Patent Office is co-ordinating a broad group of brand owners, customs, police and trading standards

The British government has unveiled its national strategy to crack down on piracy. The government's Patent Office is co-ordinating a broad group of brand owners, customs, police and trading standards officials to work together on protecting intellectual property.

Launching the project, industry minister Jacqui Smith pledged greater government assistance on clamping down on counterfeit trade. "Pirates and bootleggers cheat consumers and place a drain on our economy," said Smith in a statement. "We cannot and we will not simply turn a blind eye to copyright and trade-mark crime."

The national strategy is intended to facilitate greater co-ordination between the agencies involved in intellectual property crime and improve training for those working at the front-line. An annual report on national enforcement will be published to monitor its progress. Labels body the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has issued a statement welcoming the move.

EMI Group chairman Eric Nicoli has also praised the move, in his role as a member of the recently-launched Creative Industries IP Forum. "We are very encouraged that the government is taking steps to help Britain's creative industries tackle the theft of intellectual property and we welcome this latest enforcement initiative from the Patent Office," he says. Nicoli is the music industry representative on the Forum, which is a joint initiative between two government departments (the Dept. of Trade & Industry and the Dept. of Culture, Media & Sport).

According to the BPI, the value of the counterfeit music trade in Britain exceeded £56 million ($103 million) in 2003. The trade body claims commercial music piracy in Britain increased last year by 13%, a rate of increase six times that of legitimate album sales.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, one of the organizations that will work with the Patent Office, estimates that counterfeiting and piracy cost the British economy £10 billion ($18 billion) and 4,000 jobs each year.

A separate study, published yesterday, found 44% of Britain's 18-29 year-olds owned bogus goods. The survey of 2,180 people, conducted by research company YouGov on behalf of the Business Software Alliance, also found that 28% for the 30-50 age group owned pirated intellectual property. That figure fell to 17% for the over-50s.