Intellectual property (IP) infringement refers to any violation or breach of protected intellectual property rights. Your IP rights may have been infringed upon if your work that is protected by IP laws is copied or otherwise used or exploited without your permission. IP infringement can range from piracy, (unauthorized use), copy, reproduction, or distribution of materials protected by IP rights, to counterfeiting which is the practice of replicating genuine goods with the intent to mislead the recipient. While intellectual property infringement is a serious matter, it is not always easy to identify whether or not this crime has actually taken place.
Identifying IP Infringement
Determining if your IP rights have been infringed upon is sometimes as easy as performing a basic search. Copyright, trademark, and patent information are all a matter of public record, meaning you can search for various types of intellectual property using the appropriate databases. These databases are often available online making the search even easier. It is important to understand that a search for IP infringement may not always provide accurate results. This may be because the person who infringed upon your work has the property listed under different words that do not match your search.
You can also perform a direct patent search for inventions or published applications. Start your search with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can also find databases available on the USPTO website. Patent and trademark resource centers are available in libraries across the country and can provide reliable answers. In addition, you may be able to reveal infringement from journal articles and other sources of authoritative literature related to your industry. Lastly, you can perform a patent search on Google using the inventor name, keywords, or other search criteria.
It is also a good idea to consistently monitor your competitors to see if they are infringing on your IP rights. It is fairly common for competitors to try to keep up with the competition by offering goods that are very similar to others in the industry. While this does not always constitute as infringement, it can sometimes mean that your IP rights have been violated. By monitoring your competition, you can catch any infringement activities early on before the issue becomes bigger and more costly to handle.
Addressing IP Infringement
If you discover that your intellectual property has been used without permission, it is important to act fast to cease the activity as soon as possible. Even if you do not want to sue the person, you should seek legal advice to determine what rights you have and what approach you should take to stop the infringement. Typically, you will want to send a basic request to the infringer to stop using your work. You or your lawyer can write and send out a cease and desist letter to the person or business. When creating this document, be sure to include detailed information about the work being infringed upon and the type of infringement (copyright, patent, etc.).
When sending out a cease and desist letter to the offender, be sure to state what action you would like the person to make. For example, you may want the person to stop using your trademark or to remove the infringed upon material from their website. Also include a time limit to respond to your request. Let the offender know that if they do not respond appropriately by the given timeline, you will take further action. This may include taking legal action to stop the activity.
If the infringed upon material is found online, you have another route you can take to remove the material. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you have the ability to remove content on a person’s or business’ website that they do not have permission to use. Under this act, you can send a notice to the infringer’s website host, as well as to any ad networks that they may use on their website. When sending this notice, be sure to include information about the infringement material, as well as a link to the webpage. Also include the action that you would like to be taken.
Learn More About IP Infringement
Finding out that someone has stolen or misused your intellectual property can be infuriating. Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to stop the activity going forward. In some cases, it may be difficult to identify when IP infringement has occurred. If you are not sure, take the time to perform some database searches to determine if someone else is using your IP.