Whether you created a mascot, published a work of art online or developed a new process to make a cheaper microchip, your idea and the work that led up to it are of great value. The same is true if you did not create the original work but rather hired someone to produce something you needed for your business.
Everything from your trademark logo to trade secrets like proprietary barbecue sauce recipes can be intellectual property. If you believe that another individual or business has violated your intellectual property rights by reverse engineering your manufacturing process protected by a patent or republishing a work of art or original photograph that you copyrighted, there are certain steps that you can take to protect your intellectual property rights.
Make it official if you haven’t already
Not every kind of intellectual property is subject to registration, and you immediately receive a general copyright when you publish original creative works. Historically, people mailed themselves manuscripts, but modern creatives can just publish their work online.
However, trademarks, copyrights and patents can be a lot easier for someone to enforce than less concrete or verifiable forms of intellectual property, like trade secrets. If you can patent or copyright the piece of intellectual property that someone else has misused, doing so before you take other enforcement steps will make the rest of the process a little easier.
Identify and notify the person violating your rights
One of the most important things you can do when someone republishes your original work or otherwise violates your intellectual property rights is to tell them to stop. Sending someone a cease-and-desist letter is typically a crucial step. You probably need to send a letter before trying more aggressive enforcement efforts, like filing a civil lawsuit.
In cases where the infringement was out of ignorance or a misunderstanding, the other party may stop. Even if they do not, formally notifying them that they have infringed upon your rights will make it easier for you to hold them accountable for their continued violations.
Take the offending party to court
Depending on the circumstances, there may be two different outcomes that you want regarding the business or individual misappropriating your intellectual property.
In some cases, you may just want a court order forbidding the other party to continue the business practices that could negatively affect your company if continued unchecked. If your company has already suffered damage to its reputation or revenue because of the other business’s infringement, asking for damages may be a priority.
Knowing how to enforce your intellectual property rights can make asserting them after a violation easier.