Intellectual property infringement refers to the unauthorized use, reproduction, or sale of materials that are registered for protection under intellectual property laws. These protected materials generally include items, materials, or works that have been registered under copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Infringement laws are important because they help protect creators of original work from unauthorized use or access to their creations.
Though definitions may vary depending on the subject matter, infringement generally requires proof that:
- The victim owned the rights to a valid copyright, trademark, or patent
- The infringer had access to the protected work
- The infringer exploited their access to or used the protected work without authorization
- There are no applicable exceptions to the unauthorized use of the material
Legal penalties for copyright infringement may include:
- Civil damages in the exact amount of the damages and lost profits (anywhere from $200 to $150,000 for each item of work that was infringed upon)
- Injunctions to prevent the infringer from continuing their illegal activities
- Impoundment or confiscation of the infringing works
- A prison sentence
- Mandatory payment of court and attorney fees by the defendant
- Applicable state and federal laws
- The nature of the infringing activities
- The amount of losses suffered by the plaintiff
In some cases, infringement can lead to federal criminal charges. These can result in the defendant serving prison time or facing other criminal penalties. Federal and state laws are very strict when it comes to the protection of intellectual property.
Also, in some cases, courts may impose punitive damages on top of the normal damages award. This is often limited to double or treble damages (i.e. twice or three times the amount of the base economic damages award). These can be imposed in cases involving intentional disregard of intellectual property protections and laws.
Infringement is a very serious offense that can result in very serious civil or criminal penalties. It may be in your best interests to hire an intellectual property lawyer if you are facing any legal claims involving infringement laws. Your attorney can help research the laws to determine what rights you have. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit or attend any court sessions, your lawyer can provide you with legal representation during those time periods.