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What Is Infringement?

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What Is Infringement?

Infringement refers to the unauthorized use of material that is protected under intellectual property laws. This usually refers to instances of copyright infringement, such as when artistic works, music, or literary works are used without the creator’s permission.  However, infringement can also involve other categories of intellectual property law, including trademarks and patents. In recent years, domain name infringement has also become a common legal dispute. 

Proving infringement usually requires that there is a valid copyright, trademark, or patent in place. It also requires proof that the defendant used the material, artistic work, or invention without notifying the person who has ownership rights in the material. 

What Are Royalty Disputes? Are These the Same as Infringement?

Royalty disputes may arise in connection with copyrighted material. Royalties are small fees paid by one person each time that they use another person’s copyrighted material. A common example of this is when a record company pays music royalties to a musician whenever the song plays on the radio. 

Thus, royalty arrangements usually imply that there is an existing contract between the parties. The dispute typically has to do with either a failure to pay the royalty fees, or a dispute over the amount of the fees. However, in most cases, the defendant has permission to use the material.

On the other hand, in an infringement case, the defendant party typically does not have the plaintiff’s permission to use the copyrighted or trademarked material. In this sense, most infringement cases involve an appropriation (unauthorized use) of the material rather than a breach of contractual terms. However, a case can sometimes involve both infringement principles as well as a dispute over royalties. 

Are There Any Legal Defenses to Infringement?

Depending on the facts of the case available to the court, there can be some legal defenses to infringement. A common defense to infringement is that of “consent.” That is, if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff actually agreed to the use of the material, it may provide a defense. This can be a convincing argument, especially if the defendant supplied payment for the usage. 

Another defense is that the copyright, trademark, or patent has expired. These types of protections may expire over time, oftentimes without the person knowing that the copyright has expired. If this is the case, it will be difficult for the plaintiff to assert their legal rights.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

Infringement can often be a difficult legal concept to grasp. You may wish to hire an intellectual property lawyer if you need assistance in filing a claim for infringement. Your attorney can provide you with the necessary legal advice to succeed on your claim. Also, your lawyer will be able to represent you during court meetings as the lawsuit progresses. Many intellectual property lawyers have knowledge in various sub-fields of law. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-25-2018 08:38 PM PDT

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