For many businesses, intellectual property (IP) is incredibly valuable. In fact, for startups and small businesses, intellectual property is often their most important asset. Accordingly, third party infringement of IP rights can be costly and, at times, devastating. Because of the high value of intellectual property and the significant costs of infringement, IP enforcement is vital to maintaining an edge in business for many companies.
Making the decision to enforce your IP rights means interacting with a complex body of law. Priori can help you find a lawyer to consult and advise you on this critically important decision and process.
Defining IP Enforcement
Patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets each offer a distinct type and bundle of intellectual property rights and protections, most notably the ability to sell, license, use, profit from and/or distribute the covered invention, mark or work. When a third party infringes on any of those rights, you have the ability to take action to enforce your rights against that third party. Such IP enforcement is defined as any legal actions you take to maintain your IP rights and ensure that no third party uses them without proper authorization, as well as obtaining compensation for losses when they do.
How to Enforce IP Rights
Usually, the first step in IP enforcement is to retain an attorney send a cease and desist letter. Sending this letter sometimes will scare the infringing party into ceasing their use of your IP. Even if the third party does not cease upon receipt of the letter, the letter still serves as formal notification. In some cases, continued use after formal notification may be deemed by a court to be willful and subject to enhanced damages.
If the letter does not succeed in stopping the use of your IP, the next step may be to bring the matter to court. An IP litigator can advise you as to what claims you might have and the right forum in which you should make your claims.
IP Enforcement Cases
IP enforcement matters can often require long and complex litigation. Depending on the matter and your goals, a judge can stop the behavior with an injunction and award damages for any unlicensed use of your IP. Such damages are calculated based on lost profits you suffered due to the infringement or based on the unjust enrichment that the infringer earned illegally. If the infringement occurred knowingly and willfully, you may even be awarded a multiple of the amount of actual damages suffered, as well as court costs and attorney's fees.
The cost of IP enforcement can vary dramatically depending on your needs. Through the Priori network, hourly rates for lawyers with experience handling IP enforcement start around $175 per hour and range up to $450 per hour. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and free price quote from one of our lawyers.
Can I enforce my IP rights abroad?
If you have protected IP rights in that country, yes. Patents must be registered in each jurisdiction in which you are seeking protection, so it is important to consider IP issues before entering a market. Copyrights, on the other hand, are universal, so, in theory, you should be able to enforce copyright rights in any country through international treaties and World Intellectual Property Organization processes.
Can I enforce my IP rights without the help of an IP lawyer?
It’s certainly an option, but given the complexity of intellectual property law -- and the significant consequences of making a mistake and failing to protect your IP rights -- most businesses opt to work with lawyers on IP prosecution and defense matters.