Risky Business: Rampant Iranian IP Theft Threatens Reputational Integrity Of Leading Businesses  

(New York, N.Y.) — Law-abiding businesses around the world are increasingly under attack by elements of the Iranian regime engaging in the theft of intellectual property (IP). In an effort to deceive and manipulate businesses, Iranian entities routinely misrepresent themselves to have relationships with some of the world’s leading firms in nearly every sector of the economy. Researchers at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) routinely identify and investigate instances of these threats to the reputational integrity of businesses in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Some of firms have even pursued legal action against the Iranian entities following UANI investigations.

Last month, UANI located an Iranian avionics commerce website, Persia PilotShop, touting its ties as an exclusive dealer of products sold by ultralight aircraft manufacturers such as Blackshape and Blackwing, aircraft engine manufacturers like BRP Rotax, and aerospace companies including Airbus and Boeing.

Blackshape CEO Luciano Belviso quickly confirmed to UANI that his company does not have an active relationship with any entity in the Islamic Republic. Likewise, Blackwing CEO Niklas Anderberg confirmed his company has no contracts with Persia PilotShop, business in Iran, or customers in Iran. It has requested the removal of all references to Blackwing on the Persia PilotShop website.

Organizations and events that are unquestionably regime-controlled are also guilty of rampant IP theft. UANI collected a trove of examples in its successful infiltration of the 26th Iranian Oil Show, the regime’s premier energy fair hosted by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) in May 2022. UFI, a French organizer of tradeshows around the world, was falsely advertised as engaged by NIOC.

“With regards to the materials you shared about an exhibition incorrectly claiming to be a UFI-approved event – we will follow up. Unfortunately, we see such use of UFI materials occasionally around the world,” wrote UFI President Michael Duck in February 2023.

UFI’s name and logo, however, has again been stolen by NIOC. Last week, Iranian media outlets announced the theme of the May 2023 Iranian Oil Show, and in promotional materials UFI is again represented as being engaged in the event.

Despite its transgressions, the Islamic Republic remains a member in good standing of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a U.N. agency. As recently as October 2022, Iran hosted a two-day capacity-building technical mission for WIPO to support brand protection for entrepreneurs in the saffron and pistachio industries. As WIPO begins in earnest to play for the 2024 World Intellectual Property Day, it should be mindful of the detrimental role the Islamic Republic plays in the respect for and protection of IP.  

The regime’s IP theft is not limited, however, to copyright infringement. In Europe, Iranian agents have infiltrated universities under the guise of academic collaboration to steal research in furtherance of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Additionally, Iranian agents are employed as faculty at elite U.S. universities, including Oberlin College and Princeton University. In some cases, however, academic research is not stolen but freely exchanged with sanctioned Iranian entities working in highly sensitive regime-controlled sectors such as satellite technologies and the development of WMDs.  

To read UANI’s resource Iran Risk Snapshot, please click here. 

To read UANI’s resource Business Risk Matrix, please click here.