Infringement

Intellectual property infringement is any breach of intellectual property rights, whether copyright, trademark, patent or trade secrets. Infringement happens when a protected work is used, copied or otherwise exploited without having the proper permission from a person who owns those rights.

Even if an infringement was unintentional, it can pose a serious legal matter with severe financial consequences for yourself, your family or your business. Understanding what types of intellectual property exist, and how they are protected by the law is critical to avoid accidentally infringing upon someone else’s rights.

Infringement may involve:

  • Copyrights: Copyrights protect the rights to original artistic works, including literature, photographs, music, video, architecture and computer software.
  • Trademarks: Trademarks protect aspects of branding like words, phrases, and symbols that identify goods, services and companies.
  • Patents: Patents cover inventions and protect the rights to that innovation for a predetermined amount of time. These include utility patents, design patents and plant patents.
  • Trade Secrets: Trade secrets protect information of a proprietary nature, including formulas, programs and data. Trade secrets grant one party an economic advantage over competing interests.

Given the steep cost of violating IP rights, it's necessary to take the steps to verify that your business isn’t improperly using protected content.

I’m Being Sued for Infringement!

Unfortunately, avoiding intellectual property infringement is not always cut-and-dry. In the start-up and entrepreneurship world, enterprises often get in trouble when they hire an outside source to create something for the business – a logo or other branding items, written content, software or code, or designing a new website. They don’t realize that ownership of the created work does not automatically transfer to their company. It needs to be explicitly stated in a contract that the creator gives their rights to that work to you, and the terms of the transfer of rights.

Accusations of infringement can also involve business partners who part ways, or co-authors and co-songwriters who later reach a disagreement on how to exploit or use their joint creation.

I Want to Stop Someone from Using My Work!

After working hard to develop your intellectual property, you need to protect it from others benefiting from it without your permission. Although certain legal rights to your work are automatic, it is still up to you to actively protect your work. Nobody is going to look for copyright violations or trademark infringement on your behalf.

If you do find infringement of your intellectual property, take action. Depending on the situation, you have several options, including:

  • Send a cease and desist letter telling the infringer to stop using your work. You can send it yourself, but for the most impact, have a lawyer send it.
  • Send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice for copyright infringement on the internet.
  • Request a court injunction to stop a trademark infringer from continuing to advertisement themselves, or make or sell the product, that is violating your own trademark rights.
  • File a lawsuit. This will involve an assessment on whether you have a strong enough case to make litigation worth the cost and effort.

An experienced attorney can help you evaluate which option is right for your situation, and then help you defend your rights.

Copyright Trolls

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Daniel T. Goodwin also represent defendants in “copyright troll” litigation.

A copyright troll is a party who enforces copyrights for purposes of making money through litigation, and in a manner considered aggressive or opportunistic (many copyright troll defendants are accused of downloading pornography, which adds an element of social embarrassment or shame to the litigation that results in quick settlement payments to the plaintiff, even if the suit itself lacks in merit). A single copyright troll plaintiff often files hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits in the federal courts every year.

Critics (including many federal court judges!) object to copyright troll lawsuits because they believe they do not encourage the production of creative works or further any other underlying policies of copyright law, but instead are aimed to make money by leveraging the statutory damages provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act. The goal of a copyright troll is to extract hundreds of small settlement payments upon suing thousands of parties for allegedly illegally downloading content.

At the Law Offices of Daniel T. Goodwin, our expert legal team can help you navigate a wide variety of issues when it comes to intellectual property and infringement disputes.