There are few things to rival the sense of outrage created by somebody else using, benefitting from or taking credit for your hard work, creativity and investment. Whether it’s a trademark, a patent, a copyright or trade secret, when someone else is using your intellectual property without your permission, you have both a right and an obligation to stop them. Your intellectual property is one of the driving forces behind your company’s success. It is a priceless business asset and enforcing your ownership of it is something that you owe to yourself and all of your stakeholders.
To fully understand what an intellectual property violation is, you need to understand exactly what intellectual property includes. It can be any of the following:
- Your name, logo, slogan or tagline that identifies your business and products as yours and distinguishes it from others
- Any patent that you own is included in your intellectual property, as a patent not only represents the government acknowledging your ownership but also prevents others from using, making or selling whatever your patent covers for a defined period of time
- Any copyright you hold on content, whether musical, artistic, literary or a derivative of any of those
- Any proprietary or confidential information, including a formula, program, process, technique or other aspects of your business that gives you a benefit by keeping it secret
If anything belonging to or created by your company that falls into one of the above-listed categories is used by another person or company without you having given permission of some kind, you have the right to pursue legal action. There are several ways to go about it, but in most cases, businesses begin by having an official cease and desist letter sent to the abuser, identifying yourself as the intellectual property owner and asking them to stop all unauthorized use of your intellectual property and not to use it again in the future.
If the cease-and-desist letter does not bring about your desired result, your next step is likely to be filing a civil lawsuit against the person or business infringing on your rights. If the situation is emergent you may need to seek a court order known as an injunction asking for their unauthorized use to stop immediately for fear of significant harm to your business. You may need to involve the authorities if you suspect that there is criminal activity involved.
It is important to note that failure to take action has a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ risk. The infringer could end up saying that the rights are theirs rather than yours. For help with protecting your intellectual property, contact our experienced attorneys today to set up a time to talk and explore your options.