What is an Intellectual Property Lawsuit?
An intellectual property lawsuit is filed by the owner of a patent, trademark, or copyright against someone stealing or misusing the intellectual property. The purpose of the lawsuit is to stop the misuse and potentially to recover damages.
Most intellectual property lawsuits are filed in federal courts, but state courts handle some cases. If you think you have a case for a lawsuit, a lawyer with intellectual property expertise can help you decide where and how to file.
Types of Intellectual Property Lawsuits
The type of lawsuit filed depends on the intellectual property in question. Lawsuits over this type of property also vary by jurisdiction and the laws that apply.
- Copyright lawsuits. If you own a copyright on a work, such as a book or piece of music, you can sue someone who infringes on it, for instance, using the work without your permission or without credit. These lawsuits are held in federal court.
- Patent lawsuits. When someone uses an invention or method that is patented without permission of the patent holder, they violate patent laws. Patent matters also go to federal courts.
- Trademark lawsuits. Registered trademarks are symbols and names used to identify a company’s products. A trademark lawsuit targets people or companies who misuse a trademark, for instance, using it to make and sell counterfeit goods. You may take a trademark lawsuit to federal or state courts, depending on the situation.
- Trade secret lawsuits. Trade secret lawsuits are usually held in state courts under common laws of unfair competition. These are usually brought by companies who have attempted to protect and secure a secret process, system, or recipe. They can sue a person or another company that has stolen the trade secret.
Do I Have a Case for an Intellectual Property Lawsuit?
Laws and contracts regarding ownership and use of intellectual property can be very confusing. You can find lawyers who work only in this area of the law because it is so specific and complex. As such, it’s understandable that you are unsure if someone is misusing or infringing on your intellectual property rights.
Before you determine if you have a valid reason to file a lawsuit, make sure the intellectual property in question is actually protected. Do you have a patent, copyright, or trademark? If not, you will need to file immediately for protection to make your case.
Are There Alternatives to Intellectual Property Lawsuits?
Because a formal lawsuit is expensive and takes time, many people and companies seek to settle the issue without litigation. You can speak directly with the person infringing on a copyright, for instance. They may not realize they are doing anything wrong.
If you are not comfortable speaking with the individual or do not know them, a lawyer can draft a demand letter. It explains your rights to the intellectual property and requests they stop using it. The letter can also request a meeting to discuss redressing the wrongs. Most people and companies will be willing to settle the matter out of court. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate compensation along with a halt to the illegal use of your property.
What Can I Get from an Intellectual Property Lawsuit?
For most holders of intellectual property, the point of a lawsuit is to stop the misuse of their property. There may be other remedies as well if you file and win a lawsuit:
- An injunction that stops the individual or company from using or misusing your intellectual property
- Damages for any monetary losses you suffered from the infringement
- Recovery of the profits the other party made while using your property
- Attorneys’ fees
- Punitive damages to punish the perpetrator
What is the Statute of Limitations on Intellectual Property Lawsuits?
The statute of limitations, or time limit for filing a lawsuit, varies by the type of intellectual property:
- For copyrights, you have three years to file a civil lawsuit over infringements.
- The limitation for patent lawsuits is six years.
- There is no express statute for trademark infringement. However, the law considers you to have abandoned a trademark after three years of not using it. This essentially gives you three years to sue.
- While federal law covers copyrights and patents exclusively, trademark cases may be in federal or state jurisdiction. Individual state laws may affect the time limit for a trademark lawsuit.
How to File an Intellectual Property Lawsuit
If you believe you have a case for filing an intellectual property lawsuit, your first step is to find a lawyer or law firm specializing in this area of the law. It’s best if you have their special expertise to make the best choices and to get through the process smoothly and with the best outcome.
Your lawyer may try to remedy the situation without filing a lawsuit, but they will file a complaint in the appropriate jurisdiction if those efforts fail. This will notify the defendants and begin the official lawsuit. Both sides then investigate the case, find evidence, and collect testimony.
If the other side will not negotiate a settlement or negotiations fail, you can take them to court. Your lawyer will present evidence, such as your legal protection documents and the defendant’s use of your property. A jury will then decide if the defendant misused or stole your property or if they violated an agreement to use it. The court can award damages to you and issue an injunction.
Filing an intellectual property lawsuit is a big step in retaining and recovering your rights to your own intellectual property. Find the right lawyer to help you with what can be a difficult, long, and complicated case.