Holding a patent gives you the right to pursue legal remedies if you see that a competitor is using your invention on their products. That’s because a patent gives the owner the right to exclude everyone else from selling, using or making goods or services that contain the claimed invention. It is possible for the patent owner to license the technology that is covered by the patent to anyone that they choose, but sometimes people use protected technology without asking permission.
Patent owners are entitled to stop this use of their invention through a legal injunction obtained in federal court. Under the law, the owner can collect damages for this unlicensed use, and if it can be proven that the infringer used this technology willfully and knowingly, then the owner can recover up to three times the actual amount of damages suffered.
Unfortunately, patent infringement litigation can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. This is why it is always sensible to consult with a patent attorney to explore the options for proceeding. Typically, an infringement lawsuit is a final step after all other efforts have failed. Even then, litigation is not always warranted if the economic harm is relatively small compared to the cost of a court battle.
All that may be required is a stern but friendly letter attaching a copy of the patent, explaining that the competitor is unlawfully using technology that’s protected by a patent. When the letter comes from an attorney, it usually carries more heft, and with a copy of the patent attached, the infringer is put on notice. Any further use of that technology will be knowing and willful.
If someone is trying to sell a knock-off product with a logo or brand name that is confusingly similar to yours, then a registered trademark affords you a variety of legal protections. Discovering that your trademark is being used by another, unauthorized person can be infuriating. While having a federally registered trademark does give you the right to sue in this situation, it generally is sensible to start with a cease-and-desist letter.
Much like patent infringement, it is always advisable to have such a letter sent by a qualified intellectual property attorney. This demand letter clearly states the issue and how it is having a detrimental effect on the owner of the trademark rights.
It is a possibility that the infringer genuinely did not know about the trademark owner’s rights. In this case, they may quickly respond with a promise to not use the mark any longer.
On the other hand, it’s possible that the infringer absolutely knows about your trademark rights and was seeking to benefit from the goodwill that you have worked hard to build with the public.
Whether the infringement was intentional or not, the letter will establish a short deadline by which the infringer must stop all use of the mark. Typically, the letter also will state consequences that will ensue if the infringement continues. This may be kept vague with language suggesting that the trademark owner will “explore all legal remedies.”
If the infringer does not immediately respond or promise to discontinue use, then it may be possible to enter into a series of letters or negotiations that seek to resolve the situation amicably. Should these efforts fail, then your trademark attorney can file a trademark infringement lawsuit.
These lawsuits may be filed on the basis of a likelihood of confusion. Basically, trademark law is aimed at protecting consumers. Trademarks are meant to help members of the public readily and correctly identify the origin of the products they are purchasing. A confusingly similar mark muddies the water, perhaps leading consumers to purchase an item that they believe is the genuine article while it is actually a knock-off.
Trademark infringement lawsuits also may be filed on the basis of tarnishment or dilution of the mark. If you have a famous and well-respected mark, then use by a cut-rate competitor on inferior goods can have a negative effect on your reputation. The result is loss of profits, and this can be extremely harmful to your business. However, when you work with an intellectual property attorney, you can protect your trademark rights.
The same is true with copyrights. You can prevent other people from using your protected material when you have obtained an official copyright registration. Much like the remedies available for patent and trademark infringement, you do have the option to sue if your copyright is infringed. Once again, this usually is not the first step to take as litigation is always risky and expensive.
While you are not required to register your creation with the copyright office, doing so does give you the presumption of ownership, which can be powerful in any dispute. Moreover, registration of copyrighted materials entitles the plaintiff to collect statutory copyright damages. This means that if you do prevail in court, you could be awarded significant damages.
However, the smart first step is to engage an intellectual property attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter to the infringer. When they are written on law firm stationery, such letters can be incredibly effective. Accordingly, this is the least stressful and most cost-effective way to deal with the situation.
Contact Williams IP Law to learn more about how you can protect your business by protecting your intellectual property. Obtaining protection via patents, trademarks and copyrights will help you to hold on to your ideas and grow your business.