Intellectual property (IP) theft is a rampant issue that affects all companies conducting business overseas. Although you can obtain IP protection outside the US, business owners should always be on the lookout to ensure no one is using their brands or products without proper permission. Infringers often take advantage of the vulnerability and lack of emphasis on IP protection by US startups to make money illegally. This article addresses a question many business owners ask when dealing with IP theft or infringement: "What should I do if my IP is stolen?"
Sending infringement warnings
The first thing a startup should do after realizing their concept has been stolen is warn the infringer. This warning usually takes the form of a cease and desist letter that either a legal professional, or in some cases business owners, will write and that should feature three key elements:
- The concept, invention, or idea that was copied
- The type of IP protection that was violated
- The action the infringer is expected to take immediately
If you have patents that are being infringed upon, we recommend asking for help from associations or companies such as Unified Patents.
Taking the matter to court
Infringement warnings may either be heeded or ignored. The best-case scenario is obviously that the infringement stops and everything goes back to normal, but things often end up taking a legal turn. This is particularly true if the victim is a small business. Startups and small businesses have limited access to cash, which means they don’t have the financial resources to engage in lawsuits. Unfortunately, infringers recognize this weakness.
Unlike what most small business owners think, seeking legal action may be the best option available. Provided their IP is properly registered, owners may be able to seek compensation for losses caused by the infringement, and in some cases the legal fees. However, litigation can be a huge distraction for business leaders.
One of the most important things startups must do is register their IP as soon as they identify their intangibles and revisit their potential IP regularly (at least once a year). Although this won’t stop infringers from trying to steal intellectual property, it at least gives business owners the ability to take action.
Let protection be your weapon against thieves. The first step is to identify what you need to protect.