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Understanding intellectual property disputes

Whether for budding startups or for globally-recognized corporations, intellectual property is of vital importance. If your business startups or organization gets embroiled in a dispute over intellectual property or intellectual property theft, handling the matter appropriately is pivotal.

What exactly is intellectual property?

The term appears in a range of discussions in different sectors. Essentially, intellectual property is an umbrella term covering several facets of human inventions. This may include things such as:

  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Designs
  • Processes of production

In the course of doing business, these items can be essential to your financial success and brand as they may include methods of production or designs unique to your organization.

How intellectual property is protected

For the livelihood of individuals and businesses, intellectual property can be protected by filing a patent or having something trademarked. Another way to protect your ideas before they have reached these stages is having employees and contractors sign contracts or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). An NDA can protect any sensitive company information such as trade secrets or new product development ideas.

These measures work to not only protect your intellectual property but also act as legal support should there be threats to your ideas, inventions or patents.

What occurs in intellectual property disputes?

When one party suspects or has evidence that another individual or business has breached, appropriated or enacted processes as a result of taking intellectual property from the original party, that is an example of an intellectual property dispute. The dispute may be a result of infringements of a trademark or patent.

The expected steps to address the potential theft may include:

  • Sending a cease and desist letter
  • Investigating the potential source of the leaked information
  • Initiate court proceedings against the other party once sufficient information has been collected to support your claim

What about reverse engineering?

If a product or system is taken apart either physically by dismantling the components or by breaking down the software or design, that is reverse engineering. Generally, that is not considered to violate trade secrets as long as only the item, system or product is broken down.

However, if the process or product is patented, the situation is not as simple and reverse engineering does not stand up as a defense strategy for an intellectual property dispute or judicial proceeding.

It is advisable to first investigate existing patents and trademarks before considering reverse engineering.