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How to address intellectual property infringement

Intellectual property protections prevent others from using your ideas, creations, and inventions without your permission. But whether intentionally or through error, third parties often infringe on intellectual property, so a patent owner needs to know what to do when this happens.

Request a cease and desist from the third-party 

Reach out to the offender. Some people choose to have their legal representative do this, but you can certainly dispatch a cease and desist letter yourself. If the offender ignores the request, you can always have a lawyer assist you going forward.

The letter must include details about the infringed work without revealing trade secrets and any action you want the third party to take, such as stopping use, removal of mention from campaigns, or requests for compensation. The letter should include a time limit for a response and your intentions for further action if necessary.

If the other party has their own patent that you believe infringes on yours, contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with a Request for Reexamination. The agency will review the possibility that they granted a wrongful patent.

Explore legal options

Your case may require legal intervention. Before you begin, make sure you have all your intellectual property protections in place, including proper registration. Without it, you can hinder your chances of recovering damages. If you can prove your case, the court may grant:

  • Loss payment
  • An injunction that stops the use of your intellectual property
  • All or a share of profits 
  • Punitive damages
  • Lawyer fees

The majority of intellectual property infringement matters go before a federal court. But if the case involves intellectual property that is not properly registered or registered in a specific state, you will need to file your claim in that respective state.

Other considerations

If the infringement involves criminality, it might be worth reviewing the Economic Espionage Act. It accounts for certain types of trade secret theft. The FBI reviews piracy and counterfeiting of goods sold online. For goods from other countries, contact the National Intellectual Property Right Coordination Center and the U.S. Customers and Border Patrol. The Financial Institution Fraud Unit with the FBI investigates illegal infringement of non-internet and non-digital works. 

Should you discover that someone is using your intellectual property without your permission, the first step is asking that entity to cease and desist. This may work, but if it doesn’t, you might have to take the matter before a judge. Some matters can also involve criminality. In those cases, a higher level of intervention may be required.