The Federation against Software Theft (FAST) and the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) have said they're very concerned about standards budgets in England and Wales being slashed by an average of 40 per cent.
While TSI is worried about the next horse-meat scandal or children being harmed by counterfeit toys if trading standards slip, FAST has warned that cutting the budgets risks creating a "rogue's charter" in intellectual property enforcement.
“Trading Standards officers play a vital role in deterring the rogues who commit IP crime," said Julian Hobbins, general counsel for the federation. "But our concern is that budget cuts, in the form that we are now seeing, will have a dramatic impact on the ability of Trading Standards officers to do their jobs effectively on the street.
"There will inevitably be casualties on the enforcement side, with IP offences likely sliding down the list of priorities. This should be a worry for everyone in the industry. The software industry needs the effective implementation of law enforcement measures in order to keep the market clean and to protect the knowledge economy, which is fast-becoming the UK’s greatest asset."
The TSI and the National Trading Standards board carried out a workforce survey that suggested that by 2016, most services in south Britain will have been cut by an average of 40 per cent since 2010. More than two thirds of the trading standards services said they would be restricting or stopping some of their work in response to the cuts.
The institute said that officers took dangerous products off the market, stopped rogue traders and those preying on vulnerable people with mass marketing and doorstop selling.
"In the last six months, trading standards confiscated £3m in fake goods in Warwickshire; ordered a Liverpool man to pay back £76,000 after he was caught selling counterfeit goods; intervened in a case where a Surrey woman was conned out of £200,000 in mail scams; and helped to catch a Lancashire paedophile," it said.
FAST said that the UK needed strong enforcement of IP law if it wanted to attract content creators and encourage innovation.
"The UK computer software industry is estimated to be worth £9.2bn and employment in the sector has been growing steadily, but this growth depends upon strong Intellectual Property protection and enforcement, without which, the industry is bound to suffer.
“It’s vital that we maintain the strength and integrity of enforcement agencies, such as Trading Standards, to challenge the sale of counterfeit software and limit any negative effects on the broader economy," Hobbins said. ®