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Most Common Intellectual Property Disputes

Woman holding up IP sign

Intellectual property disputes can arise in any business, large or small. However, small businesses are more likely to face certain intellectual property disputes. This is because they may not have the same resources as larger businesses and may be more vulnerable to infringement. Our Rockford intellectual property team will provide the most common intellectual property disputes you may face and a breakdown of the types of intellectual property. In addition, we will discuss ways that your business can protect itself from infringement.

Types of Intellectual Property

The four main types of intellectual property are copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret. The term "intellectual property" (sometimes called "I.P." for short) refers to all types of intangible creations, but the type of protection that applies varies by type of creation:

  • Copyrights cover both printed and digital works. A literary work, an image or photograph, or a movie can fall under copyright protection.
  • Trademarks protect words, phrases, marks, symbols, and logos used to identify a particular source of goods - essentially, any brand. Take Apple computers as an example.
  • Patents cover inventions. A patent can cover a process or method, a machine, a manufactured article, or a new pharmaceutical.
  • Trade secrets are just that-insider information about a company that nondisclosure agreements signed by employees protect. In the research and development industry, trade secrets include formulas, client lists, and processes and methods. Coca-Cola's recipe is a classic example of a trade secret.

Some creations can be protected by more than one type of intellectual property. For example, a musical artist's body of work may include copyrighted musical works and a trademark logo or design.

Intellectual Property Disputes Faced by Small Businesses

The most common types of intellectual property disputes are likely to be a copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and patent infringement. These situations occur when individuals or businesses, including small businesses, discover that others are using their intellectual property without permission:

  • Copyright infringement: Someone has likely used your creative work—words or images—without your permission. You should consider doing so to recover damages in the federal court system. If you haven't already registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, you should consider doing so as soon as possible.
  • Trademark infringement: Someone uses the same word, phrase, mark, symbol, or logo as you are using to sell similar products, potentially confusing consumers. You will gain additional legal protection if you haven't yet registered your trademark. On the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website, you can find forms and information on registering a trademark.
  • Patent infringement: Someone makes, uses, sells, or offers to sell something that contains every element of your patented claim. An infringement claim may be complicated when an invention has several parts and is covered by more than one patent. To file a patent or search for one, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website.

A trade secret can also be at the center of an intellectual property dispute, though these are more common in corporate contexts. Even small businesses can keep secrets, so you should not ignore this possibility if you run a business.

In the event that someone is infringing on your intellectual property, take action as soon as possible. It is highly recommended to seek the legal help of an intellectual property lawyer. An experienced lawyer will be able to assess your particular dispute and provide you with the best course of action.

Ready to Protect Your Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property disputes can be complex and time-consuming. However, there are steps that you can take to protect your business from these disputes. By taking the time to identify and protect your company's I.P., you can minimize the risk of infringement and maximize the value of your intellectual property. Our skilled team of intellectual property attorneys can help you with all aspects of protecting and enforcing your I.P. rights.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

The blog published by Reno & Zahm LLP is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing blog posts, the reader understands there is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.