10 / 26 / 2015

How Can You Be Sure Someone Has Stolen Your Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property theft is a serious crime, causing great frustration to artists, businesses, and organizations across the globe on a surprisingly regular basis. Just because an individual makes a claim that their copyrighted work has been unfairly used or copied by another does not necessarily mean it really has – the law is complex, and confusion is understandable.

A good example of an intellectual property case is that launched by S. Victor Whitmill, a tattoo artist. As the man who gave Mike Tyson his distinctive inkwork, he went on to file a claim against Warner Bros. Entertainment following the release of The Hangover Part II.

He had obtained copyright for his artwork on Tyson's face only weeks before The Hangover Part II's release, and claimed the recreation of it in the movie was infringement. Warner Bros. insisted it was a parody, which would allow the tattoo's recreation under “fair use” law.

Whitman and Warner Bros. eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. This, however, serves to illustrate the complicated nature of intellectual property.

Knowing your Rights and Taking Action

So, how can you be sure someone has stolen your intellectual property? This can be incredibly hard to know for sure without the assistance of a business lawyer. An experienced attorney will be able to assess the nature of the specific case and identify whether there are grounds to take action.

However, depending on how explicit the theft appears to be, you may be able to have a solid idea of your grounds to take action. For example, if you produce a painting, upload an image of it on your website, and then see another artist has pasted the picture onto their site to pass off as their own, this could be regarded as intellectual-property theft.

What Outcome May you Expect from your Case?

After contacting a lawyer to pursue action, the first step is to contact the suspected offender. A cease and desist letter will be sent, which asks those involved to stop using what is believed to be your work. Following this, depending on the type of infringement, you may be able to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Payment towards your losses
  • A share of the thief's profits earned from using your intellectual property (if not all of the money altogether)
  • Punitive damages
  • An injunction to prevent the thief from using your creation(s) again in the future, which may also involve pulling a product from sale

If you believe someone has stolen your work for their own gain, contacting a business lawyer is the best way to discover your rights, your chances of a positive outcome, and other essential information.

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