No business wants to find itself on the wrong side of an intellectual property (IP) lawsuit. If you lose, not only do you have to pay damages, you lose access to IP you thought was wholly your idea. To protect your company, it’s important to understand the different types of IP protections and how best to avoid infringing on someone else’s rights. IP infringement is something you need to be careful not to do. Being the infringer can be just as big a problem as being infringed upon.
If you are unsure how to avoid infringing on the IP of others, contact the intellectual property attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett. We can help you protect your business and your intellectual property.
How to Avoid Committing IP Infringement
Avoiding intellectual property (IP) infringement is crucial for any business. Here are some tips to help you steer clear of potential legal issues:
#1. Educate Yourself
Understand what intellectual property is and the different forms it can take. There are currently four types of IP protection:
- Patents: Patents protect someone’s rights over their inventions and processes for a limited amount of time.
- Copyrights: Copyrights protect the creative expression of ideas, including books, films, music, and artwork.
- Trademarks: Trademarks are words, symbols, or designs used to identify a company’s or brand’s products or services.
- Trade secrets: Trade secrets refer to confidential business information that provides a company with an economic advantage.
#2. Conduct Thorough Research
Before launching a product, service, or brand, do your research to make sure there is no prior art that you can infringe on. In this instance, prior art would be any IP that is similar enough to your IP that you could be accused of copyright infringement.
How to Research Prior Art
To properly research potential prior arts, you can use databases like:
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- The European Patent Office (EPO)
They both have long-standing records of existing IP. If an IP has not been registered before you register your own, you have legal deniably if they try to accuse you of infringement. It is the responsibility of a creator to register their work, not for you to make sure it exists or doesn’t.
#3. Use Original Content
Whenever possible, create your own content, designs, and inventions from scratch. Avoid inspiration when you can. If you do use someone else’s work, make sure you have the necessary permissions or licenses, unless the work is in the public domain.
#4. Respect Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements
Like you, other companies will utilize confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements to protect themselves. Do not try to utilize the information you have been discreetly given to change or better your IP.
#5. Monitor Your IP
Keep regular updates on your current IP, and establish a timeline of when and how you have used it. If somewhere down the line someone tries to accuse you of IP infringement, you have a history of using it when they did not accuse you of infringement.
This is less of a strategy for avoiding accusations and more of a strategy for defending against them. Even if you utilize all of our tips, there’s no guarantee that someone won’t still accuse you of infringing on their IP.
What Should You Do If You Are Accused of IP Infringement?
Remember, when in doubt, it’s always best to seek legal advice to ensure you’re not unintentionally infringing on someone else’s intellectual property. IP law is just as complex and involved as any other type of business law. If your IP is especially important to how you operate your business, contact us today for help.