Intellectual Property (IP) theft refers to stealing or using someone else’s intellectual property without permission, which can be a commercial innovation, a new method having economic value or a distinctive mark like a logo, symbol, name used for commercial purposes. For instance, if someone knowingly uses, copies, or steals a logo belonging to another firm or individual, it would be considered as intellectual property theft.
For What Reason Does Intellectual Property Theft Occur?
Intellectual property theft occurs because it’s too easy, quick, cheap to commit, and highly profitable. Thieves often rationalize it as a victimless crime and are able to gain profits by copying someone else’s work, idea, or product without actually doing anything. They are least concerned with the consequences of unauthorized use ranging from robbing the original owners of their livelihood to damaging the business name and reputation. Several defenders of the IP theft are of the view that the very concept of intellectual property is theft. They strongly believe that ideas and innovations should always be free, and nobody should have the exclusive right to own information. Next is the concept of patent trolls. Very often, these individuals or businesses are seen not making anything of their own but rather buying licenses to patent their copied works so that they can sue others for infringement. IP pirates mostly come from foreign countries like China, South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, to name a few. Although offline violations can still be investigated with the help of standard methods, tracking them online is the toughest.
What Are The Types Of Intellectual Property Theft?
1. COPYRIGHT THEFT:
Copyright theft is most commonly and generally seen among published materials, computer software, movies, recorded music, computer software, to name a few.
2. TRADEMARK THEFT:
Trademark theft most commonly occurs when a person uses any other business’ symbol, logo, or name, which is unique to their brand identity.
3. PATENT THEFT:
Patent theft most commonly occurs when a person copies someone else’s patented invention without the owner’s permission or licensing.
How Can IP Be Protected From Theft?
Protecting IP from theft actually depends on which type of IP a person is trying to protect as each type has different levels of protection under the law. In a few cases, infringement of IP is even considered as a criminal offense.
For any type of intellectual property that is stolen, the first step generally involves drafting and sending a cease and desist notice. This letter lets the IP thieves know that they need to stop using or stealing your intellectual property.
The cease and desist notice must specify:
- The intellectual property infringed upon.
- The type of infringement.
- The action required to deal with the infringement.
- The time period for response and amendment
If the cease and desist notice turns out to be ineffective, then the case of IP theft can be handled in courts, where the owner fighting infringement can obtain:
- An injunction commanding the other person to stop using the IP.
- Compensation for losses.
- Punitive damages.
How Can IP Be Protected From Theft?
Under IP Laws, the legal consequences of IP theft and infringement can result in harsh penalties like:
1. Several years of imprisonment.
2. Huge fine.
3. Seizure of stolen property.
4. Loss of license.
5. Lawsuits filed by the victim to recover monetary damages.
What Are The Defenses To IP Theft?
When accused of IP theft, the following defenses may help you from not being charged with a crime:
1. Lack of intent, where the accused person of IP theft did not knowingly attempt to steal or use the intellectual property for gaining profits.
2. Lack of ownership rights, where the plaintiff does not have Intellectual Property Protection to sue the accused for infringement.
3. Unclean hands defense, where the plaintiff was engaged in some kind of wrongdoing in the lawsuit filed itself, like waiting for a long time before suing even after coming to know about the Intellectual Property Infringement.
4. Fair use clause, where the person accused of IP theft could claim that the intellectual property was used under the fair use clause. Though very complicated, this defense would benefit only after taking help from an intellectual property attorney.