What to do if Another Company Uses Your Business’ Intellectual Property?
Let’s define what it means for another company to use your business’ intellectual property. Trademark law and Copyright law provide a very specific bundle of rights. Those rights are:
- Produce goods with your trademark.
- Sell goods with your trademark.
- Advertise goods with your trademark.
- Produce the copyrighted work.
- Sell the copyrighted work.
- Perform publicly the copyrighted work.
- Create derivative works.
If any of those rights are infringed – used without authorization – then it is incumbent upon you to enforce your rights in your intellectual property.
Find out who is using.
This sounds simplistic, but finding out the parties that are involved could be difficult at times. If the product is counterfeit, maybe a mailing slip can help you find out the party. Maybe doing a whois search of the website from which the products were bought can help. Many infringing products have tags with addresses of the infringing party. Every single case is going to be difficult.
There are cases that do require the services of a private investigator in order to find the infringers.
Make sure you register your trademarks and copyrights.
Registration is the best way to help your business enforce its intellectual property. Registration of both trademarks and copyrights allows you to go to federal court and ask for higher amounts of damages, including attorney’s fees.
Registration of trademarks and copyrights also allows your business to hand the registrations to Customers and Border Patrol to help stop infringing materials from entering the United States.
File a lawsuit.
While cease-and-desist letters are meant to scare infringers, they only help to finish the problem sometimes. Filing a lawsuit against any party involved with creating, designing, manufacturing, selling, advertising, importing, and exporting can only help enforce your business’ rights in its intellectual property. It may also lead to the head of the operation, if you’re unable to find the head of the operating, as defendants would be required to disclose from where they obtained the designs, marks, ideas, or materials.
Ask for monetary damages and a permanent injunction.
As the owner of a registered trademark and copyright, your business would be entitled to monetary damages. This can range from actual damages, to attorney’s fees, to statutorily-defined damages, to treble damages, depending upon the type of infringement or counterfeiting action has been alleged. You can also ask for a permanent injunction against the creation, selling, advertising, or importing of the infringed goods.
Give all the judgments to CBP.
Once all judgments are obtained, hand them to Customs and Border Patrol so that the judgments are a part of your file to help further prevent the importation of any infringing or counterfeit materials.