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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Oct 6, 2016

Intellectual property lawsuits are fairly common these days, and it seems like hardly a month goes by without a news story about a major corporation suing another major corporation for copyright infringement or violating their intellectual property rights.

What exactly is intellectual property, though, and how can you know whether you have a potential lawsuit on your hands or not?

Intellectual property is defined as “a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.”

Basically, if you thought up and created something (and have taken the necessary steps), you can claim intellectual ownership over that idea, and can file for damages against anyone that tries to take it and distribute it as their own.

Pre-emptively protecting your creations

copyright-trademark-patent-circlesWhen it comes to inventions, protection is a somewhat involved process, involving filing for patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This only applies to new machines, manufactured goods, and technological improvements.

For intellectual property matters, there are two types: Trademarks and Copyrights.

Trademarks are easy to protect, as you don’t even have to register them with a government agency (although you can, for additional protection). All you need to do is display the ™ symbol alongside the creation, and you can claim ownership over it for potentially forever. Trademarks are useful in protecting slogans, names, symbols, etc.

Copyrights apply only to music, motion pictures, writings, architecture, and various other intellectual/artistic expressions. Theories or ideas cannot be protected unless they have been captured in a fixed medium (such as a written publication). Getting copyright protection for your creation is as simple as simply creating it. Whether you publish the work or not doesn’t matter, it’s the simple act of initial creation that grants you copyright protection. Copyrights are valid for the original creator’s life plus 70 years, and do not require the © symbol to be displayed (although it is allowed).

When is it Infringement?

Intellectual property infringement is an unbelievably massive problem in our current society. As of 2011, it is estimated that between 5% and 7% of all global trade is in violation of copyrighted and trademarked property, and accounts for $600 billion worldwide.

For it to qualify as infringement, a protected work must be used or sold without permission or license from the original creator, and must be commercial in purpose. Basically, if you created something, and another person/entity is using it for profit, then you could potentially have an infringement case.

Unfortunately, U.S. patent law generally does not allow citizens to go after foreign companies or individuals, although there are some specific cases where it can happen.

If you are concerned about someone else infringing on your intellectual property rights, or have someone coming after you for infringement, get in touch with an intellectual property attorney right away. They will be able to answer all your questions, as well as help you get started on the next step.