Intellectual Property Disputes

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 What Are the Different Types of Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) includes property that is typically not tangible. Instead, intellectual property includes sets of rights that control the ownership, sale, and use of items that are created through the use of an individual’s creativity or intellect, for example:

  • Machines;
  • Musical compositions;
  • Logos.

There are four main categories of intellectual property, including:

  • Copyrights: Copyrights include:
    • Writings;
    • Musical recordings;
    • Films;
    • Plays;
    • Other creative works that are recorded in a tangible medium;
  • Patents: Patents include inventions as well as other technical or mechanical innovations;
  • Trademarks: Trademarks include slogans and logos that are used to identify particular goods;
    • Trademark laws also cover service marks and trade dress; and
  • Trade secrets: Trade secrets provide a business or individual with a competitive edge. They are not readily accessible to the general public. Trade secrets may include:
    • Recipes;
    • Instructions;
    • Production methods;
    • Other information.

What Are Some Common Types of Intellectual Property Disputes?

The most common example of an intellectual property dispute is infringement. Intellectual property infringement arises when the property is appropriated or used without permission from the owner. There are different categories of infringement, including:

Examples of common ways that infringement may occur include:

  • Using the logo for a certain product on another product of the same nature as the initial product;
  • Using trade dress or creating a logo in a way that is intended to cause consumers to believe that they are purchasing a product that is the same as the original product;
  • Making copies of musical recordings, movies, and other media and distributing them for profit without the copyright owner’s consent; and
  • Manufacturing a patented item by following the specifications listed in the patent without having a license from the patent owner.

Intellectual property disputes may also be caused by corporate espionage. An example of this would be bribing an employee of a competing company to disclose the secret client list of their competitor.

In addition, intellectual property disputes may arise when the producer of a service or a good believes that their product is protected under IP laws when, in fact, it is not, such as with trade secrets.

Who Can Be Held Liable in Intellectual Property Disputes?

When there is a dispute over intellectual property, the party that can be held liable will depend on the nature of the dispute. In many cases, infringement is used to refer to copyright infringement. For example, when an artistic work, music, or literary work is used without the approval of its creator.

Infringement, however, as noted above, may also involve other categories of IP. Recently, domain name infringement has become a more common legal dispute.

Proving infringement occurred typically requires that a valid patent, copyright, or trademark be in place. Proving infringement also requires evidence that a defendant used the invention, material, or artistic work without notifying the party who had ownership rights of the material.

Under intellectual property laws, copyright is a legal right that is created in an author’s work. A copyright provides the author of creative and new works with the exclusive rights of Copyrights publication, distribution, and usage of their work. Copyright protections prevent other individuals from using the author’s initially authored work without their permission.

Under federal copyright law, a copyright provides an author with many exclusive rights, including the right to:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work as wanted;
  • Distribute copies of their copyrighted works for sale to the public; and
  • Perform the copyrighted work as desired.

Some examples of works that can be copyrighted include, but are not limited to:

  • Books;
  • Poems;
  • Song lyrics, musical compositions, and sound recordings;
  • Plays, motion pictures, and scripts;
  • Paintings and drawings;
  • Choreography;
  • Sculptures;
  • Software;
  • Broadcasts;
  • Websites and online content.

In addition to the rights noted above, there are other examples of copyrights and common copyright infringements, such as:

Infringement of the Right of Reproduction

A copyright owner retains the exclusive rights to reproduce their work in any fixed form. When an individual reproduces a work by copying and selling it, the act is considered to be infringing on the owner’s right of reproduction. One example of this would be copying a painting of an original artwork and offering it for sale.

Infringement of the Right of Public Performance

If an individual performs an original protected song in public without consent, it would be considered infringing on the copyright owner’s right to public performance.

Infringement of the Right of Distribution

An example of infringement on the right of distribution would be if an individual sells unlicensed copies of another individual’s original work, such as a work of art or literature. For example, someone would not be allowed to copy the music of a famous musician and distribute copies of that music to make money.

Infringement of the Right to Derivative Works

A copyright owner has the right to modify their original works or to create new works that are based on their older works. When an individual creates a derivative of an original work without the owner’s permission, it infringes on their right to derivative works. One common example of this would be the creation of a movie based on a book without the book author’s permission.

Infringement of the Right of Public Display

A copyright owner has the right to show their work publicly, which may include publishing their work online. If someone publishes another party’s work online without the owner’s permission, it would be considered infringing on the copyright owner’s right to public display. For example, releasing a movie online for the general public without the consent of its owner would be deemed an infringement of the right of public display.

What Are Some Remedies for Intellectual Property Disputes?

The remedies for an intellectual property violation will depend on the type of violation. In general, however, remedies may include:

  • Monetary damages that are intended to compensate the non-violating party for the losses they incurred that were caused by infringement;
  • A cease and desist order, which is frequently used in cases where a trademark is being used without authorization;
  • Confiscation of the property that was used to create the infringing product.

In certain types of cases, the infringing party may also face criminal charges.

Are There Any Legal Defenses to Infringement?

Depending on the facts of the case, there may be legal defenses available to infringement. One common defense is consent.

If a defendant is able to establish that the plaintiff agreed to use the material, it may serve as a defense. This argument may be strengthened if the defendant provided payment for the usage.

Another possible defense is that the copyright, trademark, or patent expired. These types of protections may expire after a certain period of time.

In many cases, the individual may not even be aware their protection has expired. If this is the case, it may be difficult for the plaintiff to argue their work was protected.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Resolving an Intellectual Property Dispute?

An intellectual property dispute could cost an individual or a business a great deal of profit and revenue. If you have any type of infringement issue or question, you should consult with an intellectual property lawyer.

Your lawyer will be able to review your case and provide you with advice for your specific issue. In addition, if you have to file a lawsuit or defend yourself in court, your lawyer will represent you.

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