4 Steps to Take If You Believe Your Intellectual Property Rights Have Been Violated
posted by: Katie Charleston Law, P.C.
Intellectual property can be valuable for brands, businesses, and individuals such as authors and artists. When someone violates your trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property rights, it can feel like a serious attack. It may, indeed, be a costly issue.
Annually in the United States, businesses lose billions of dollars related to intellectual property issues. For example, around $29 billion is lost due to counterfeit or pirated goods, according to the U.S. Department of State. Obviously, you should take intellectual property rights seriously.
But before you jump into business litigation over a trademark or patent concern, read up on intellectual property rights below. Then learn about some steps you can take if you believe yours are being infringed upon.
What Are Intellectual Property Rights?
Intellectual property rights are those related to the ownership of intangible assets. Typically, the person who creates something owns the rights to the intellectual property.
However, in business settings, when people create inventions, works of art, or other intangible assets within the context of their job, the business may own the intellectual property rights for those assets.
4 Types of Intellectual Property Rights
While there are many types of intellectual property, there are four major categories. They are:
- Patents. These are intellectual property rights over inventions. Inventions can be tangible items, such as machines, or ideas, such as processes.
- Trademarks. Trademarks refer to phrases and images that distinguish the brand, service, or product of a specific company. Nike’s check is an example of a logo that is trademarked.
- Copyrights. This type of intellectual property right covers ownership of material created by someone. Poems, songs, novels, plays, and even computer programs can be copyrighted.
- Trade secrets. Trade secrets refer to business intellectual property that involves information that is valuable to the company when the value would decrease if the information were shared publicly. The formula for Coca-Cola is an example.
Ways Intellectual Property Rights Can Be Violated
Your intellectual property rights can be violated purposefully by another business or person. But it’s also possible that someone might infringe on your rights without meaning to.
Some common intellectual property rights violations include:
- Someone attempting to market a product very similar to one you have a patent for
- Another company using an exact or almost exact replica of your logo, even if they didn’t realize this was the case
- Another person publishing a story that has the same plot and characters as yours
- A business using a very similar tagline to one you have trademarked
Steps to Take if You Think Your Intellectual Property Rights Have Been Violated
Intellectual property enforcement is a specific area of the law, and there are options to legally protect your intellectual property rights. A lawyer can help you understand what options you might have, but if you aren’t sure the situation calls for legal action just yet, you can start with the steps below.
Notify the Potential Violator
People infringe unknowingly on other’s intellectual property rights all the time. As the old saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun, and it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that people might come up with similar logos, brand names, or product concepts.
If you don’t have any reason to think that someone has maliciously infringed on your rights, consider notifying them of the issue in writing. Depending on how serious the issue is or the scale of the infringement, you might send an email or a hardcopy via USPS certified mail to create a paper trail.
Be professional but firm. Include any backup documentation demonstrating your trademark or other official claim to the intellectual party.
Ask a Lawyer to Send a Letter
If the other person or business doesn’t agree to stop using your intellectual property, you may want to take communication to the next step. You might consider starting with this step if you feel that someone is purposefully infringing on your intellectual property rights.
A letter from a lawyer may be seen as more official than communication coming directly from you. Your attorney will also be able to cite case law to help demonstrate the seriousness of the issue and your case against the other entity. The fact that you have gone so far as to involve an attorney may also ensure that the other party understands you are serious about enforcing your intellectual property rights.
Consider Whether You Can Settle the Case Out of Court
If you have sustained damages, such as lost sales, because of the intellectual property right infringement, you may want to discuss monetary compensation.
Begin by talking to your attorney about options for settling out of court, as this is typically a lower-cost and less time-consuming path.
File a Lawsuit for Intellectual Property Infringement
If all else fails, your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit. Note that you can’t file a trademark or copyright lawsuit in federal court if you haven’t already trademarked or copyrighted with the USPTO, though.
Work With a Trademark Litigation Attorney
A trademark litigation attorney can help you understand what your rights are and how to enforce them. If you believe your intellectual property rights are being infringed upon, reach out to Katie Charleston Law, PC, at 317-663-9190 to find out how we can help you protect your brand and business.