AFP logo at EBB Canberra

Intellectual property crime

Prosecuting criminal matters related to intellectual property such as the sale of counterfeit goods

Intellectual property (IP) refers to something you create through your ideas or knowledge, such as a design, invention or artistic work.

IP rights allow you to legally protect your creation and make money from it. Learn more about IP rights in Australia.

Intellectual property crime

Intellectual property crime is a major problem across the world. We work with other agencies to combat it.

It's illegal to manufacture, sell or distribute counterfeit or pirated goods. Several laws cover IP crime, including:

  • Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) – making or using copyrighted material for commercial benefit is an offence
  • Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth) – producing and distributing counterfeit medicines and medical devices is illegal
  • Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) – falsifying or removing a registered trademark is a crime.

In most cases, infringement of IP rights is dealt with in civil court because it's not a criminal matter.

However, counterfeiting is a crime under the Trade Marks Act 1995 in some circumstances. Breaches of trademark law are dealt with by:

  • the AFP
  • the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
  • state and territory police
  • state and territory prosecution agencies.

Under the Trade Marks Act 1995, counterfeiting carries a penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to A$115,500.

Public safety

IP crime can have serious consequences.

For example, some counterfeit products, such as medicines, can cause death or injury. Counterfeit personal protective equipment, like masks, can put health workers at serious risk.

Even if they aren't actively harmful, counterfeit medicines and medical devices, such as condoms, blood glucose strips or contact lenses, usually don't work. This means that people waste money for no benefit. Other counterfeit goods, like electronics, are also often faulty or dangerous.

Links to serious crime

IP crime is a major global problem costing over US$200 billion each year.

Proceeds of IP crime are sometimes:

It can also have links to:

According to Europol, trade in counterfeit goods represents about 2.5% of global trade.

Our role

We only investigate criminal matters related to IP. Our role is to enforce the penalties under the laws that cover IP crime.

We combat IP crime by partnering with:

  • industry
  • state and territory policing services
  • Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Australian Border Force
  • IP Australia.

We focus on taking decisive action against organisers, major importers and wholesalers of counterfeit goods.

Reporting IP crime

If you think someone is using IP illegally or importing or selling counterfeit goods, you can report:

Someone using your IP to IP Australia

Counterfeit medical products to Therapeutic Goods Administration

Importing counterfeit goods to Australian Border Force

Selling counterfeit goods to Crime Stoppers

If you suspect an IP crime has been committed phone131 444  and report the matter to your local police.