Find the right lawyer now

What Is Contributory Infringement?

Find a Local Intellectual Property Lawyer near You

What Is Contributory Infringement?

Infringement occurs when a person engages in the unauthorized use of material that has been protected under infringement laws. These types of violations generally involve material that has been protected under trademark, patent, or copyright protections. For instance, if a person uses a logo that has been trademarked without the owner’s permission, they might be subject to a trademark infringement violation.

Contributory infringement laws impose liability on someone who has not actively participated in infringing activities, but has nevertheless contributed to the infringement violations. To be held liable for contributory infringement, the parties need to know that they are engaging in infringement of protected content. Also, the defendant needs to make material contributions or must have helped enable the infringement. Contributory infringement is sometimes known as secondary liability or contributory liability.

When Do Contributory Infringement Laws Apply?

An example of this is where a person supplies a manufacturer with a logo that has been trademarked, knowing that it will be used for purposes that violate the trademark protections.

Contributory infringement can happen in a variety of settings, including those that have to do with:

While the basic idea behind contributory infringement is the same for these types of examples, there may be slight differences in the application of liability principles for copyright, trademark, and patent cases. For instance, trademark and patent infringement rely on codified statutes for contributory liability definitions. In comparison, contributory copyright infringement is based largely on case law. Thus, there may be differences in how each of these play out.

What Are Some Penalties for Contributory Infringement?

Depending on the nature of the infringement and the facts involved, contributory infringement penalties can be just as severe as those involved with direct infringement violations. These may include penalties such as fines, civil damages for losses caused by the infringement, confiscation of materials used in the infringement process, and, in some cases, serious criminal penalties. Defenses may be available to the defendant depending on the circumstances.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Contributory Infringement?

Contributory infringement violations can lead to some very serious legal consequences, as the defendant may face consequences as if they were actively and primarily involved in the infringement themselves. You may wish to hire a qualified intellectual property lawyer if you have any legal issues involving contributory infringement. Your attorney can help assess your situation to determine what your legal rights and options are. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit, your lawyer can be on hand to represent you during the process.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-25-2018 07:30 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.