Legally protecting your ideas and practices is an important part of doing business. Without these protections, some of your most vital business transactions could be compromised, threatening the livelihood of your business as a whole. Intellectual property is not as easy to see or understand as inventory or equipment, but that does not make it any less important for business.
In most situations, you handle your intellectual property needs without ever going to court. However, there are situations where litigation for copyright and trademark infringement cases is necessary. Situations like these may require:
- Injunction actions
- Marksman hearings
- Trial and appellate proceedings
- Opposition and cancellation of trademarks in proceedings before the Patent and Trademark Office
- Patent interference proceedings
- Seizure actions related to copyright
- Trade secret protection litigation
- Intellectual property disputes that can be solved through mediation and arbitration
You may not even realize that your business created intellectual property through its practices and processes, but it likely does. Protecting it keeps your business viable and ahead of your competition.
What is Intellectual Property Infringement?
When someone breaches your intellectual property rights, they have committed intellectual property (IP) infringement. If your products or ideas are protected by intellectual property laws and someone else copies or otherwise exploits your ideas without permission, then IP infringement has occurred.
In successful intellectual property infringement cases, the breach or violation is likely to cause confusion or mistake about the creator of the goods or services. That is, the violator copies you so well that you cannot tell who made the product or service.
How is a Copyright Different from a Trademark?
A copyright will protect original works of art, including novels, music, photography, and videos. A copyright will prohibit other people from using your work without permission. Copyrights do not protect short phrases, names, or titles. Instead, trademarks are used for this purpose.
Trademarks protect specific logos, symbols, etc. that are used to distinguish a product or service in the marketplace. Both intellectual property tools can occasionally be used to protect various aspects of the same product.
Litigation for Copyright and Trademark Infringement Cases
Those who believe that their intellectual property rights have been violated can file a civil lawsuit in state or federal court for copyright or trademark infringement. Many intellectual property owners choose to file in federal court.
The individual or business that owns the intellectual property right must show the following to have a valid infringement case:
- The business or individual owns a valid trademark or copyright
- The Defendant’s product or service is so similar to the Plaintiff’s mark that it is likely to cause confusion about the source or sponsorship of the product or service
If the Plaintiff owns a federal trademark as listed on the Principle Register, the court will presume that the trademark is valid and that the Plaintiff has the exclusive right to use the mark. The Defendant, however, can rebut this presumption in court.
To determine the answer to the similarity question, the court will often consider the following factors:
- The degree of similarity
- Where and how the products or services are advertised
- Where and how the products are sold
- Range of prospective purchasers for a particular good or service
- Purchasing conditions
- Evidence of actual confusion by customers or potential customers
- Strength of the Plaintiff’s trademark
Federal Intellectual Property Laws
Federal laws affect litigation for copyright and trademark infringement cases. The Lanham Act created the national registry of trademarks, service marks, and trade dress. Adding your trademark to the national registry gives others constructive notice of your mark.
Copyrights have a similar registry, which is kept in Washington, D.C. Copyrights apply to literary works, visual works, single serials, performing arts, and sound recordings.
When either of these intellectual property rights is violated, you may be able to get:
- An injunction to prohibit continued use
- Impounding and disposition of the infringing articles
- Damages and profits from the product or service that violated the intellectual property law
- Costs and attorney fees
If you cannot prove that you have been damaged because of the infringement in court, then the Court may allow another business or individual to continue to use your product or service. Often, however, the court will design a remedy that prevents buyer confusion if it allows such a continued practice.
Intellectual property laws are both unique and confusing, especially when it comes to litigation for copyright and trademark infringement cases. An experienced attorney is necessary to litigate you or your business’s intellectual property rights. Contact KPPB LAW for more information.