Intellectual Property Theft
Theft of intellectual property refers to the illegal acquisition of another party’s formulas, designs, works of art, or other forms of intellectual labor. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues rules that protect many forms of intellectual property; violations of these laws may result in steep fines and even jail time for anyone convicted of stealing such property. Since the FBI devotes much human resources and money to white-collar crime efforts like intellectual property theft and piracy, the prospect of being prosecuted by the agency may be intimidating at best.
The following are examples of IPs:
- Website content
- Audio recordings
- Trade secrets
- Blog posts
- Social media postings
How Do you Prove Intellectual Property Theft?
What sort of intellectual property legislation was broken will determine how intellectual property theft may be shown. Theft of intellectual property may be established by the following means:
- Establishing that another company is using a trademark that is identical or confusingly like a person’s and that the individual possessed the IP rights before the opposing parties;
- Providing evidence that another person’s work that is being shown, disseminated, or copied was derived from the individual’s copyrighted work and that the individual or IP owner did not authorize its usage;
- The theft of a patented concept or product is considered fraud. In such situations, a person must demonstrate that they were the first to apply for the patent and, thus, has exclusive rights to its distribution or sale; and
- If a nondisclosure agreement was signed, the owner of a trade secret has the right to offer legal arguments preventing another party from revealing, benefitting from, or exploiting confidential intellectual property information.
What legal consequences come from stealing intellectual property?
There are different ways to punish people who violate intellectual property rights rules. Theft of intellectual property is punished harshly by-laws about intellectual property. Most thefts and violations of intellectual property rights will be charged as federal crimes. Getting convicted could lead to:
- Criminal fines;
- Several years in prison, depending on the type of charges;
- Getting back the property, documents, or materials that were stolen;
- Losing or having a business license taken away; and civil charges filed by the victim of the crime, such as for lost business profits
Defenses to Theft of Intellectual Property?
There are a few possible defenses if you are accused of stealing intellectual property.
These include the following:
Absence of intent: If the alleged intellectual property thief did not intend or intentionally seek to steal or utilize the intellectual property for personal advantage.
Absence of ownership rights: If the individual accusing another of intellectual property theft lacked ownership rights over the allegedly infringing intellectual property, they could not bring a lawsuit for infringement. This would be the case if intellectual property rules did not protect the content.
Unclean hands: This is fault on the plaintiff’s behalf. If that individual delayed a long period after discovering the intellectual property violation before filing a lawsuit, it would be deemed “dirty hands.”
Fair use: In this defense, the alleged infringer of intellectual property might claim that the intellectual property was utilized following the fair use provision. The fair use provision permits the use of the intellectual property for educational purposes. A fair use defense may be highly complex and would benefit from the assistance of an intellectual property lawyer.
Common methods of IP theft
There are several ways in which IP theft may occur.
Human error – In the end, company employees might make errors. Perhaps a worker misplaced a corporate gadget or mistakenly sent an email with confidential information or intellectual property. Typically, this kind of IP theft occurs unintentionally.
Hackers – This is the most prevalent method of stealing intellectual property and the one that firms strive hardest to prevent. Hackers have employed various techniques to gain access to enterprise networks. This allows them to steal corporate systems’ trade secrets, IP addresses, and other sensitive information.
Inside jobs – IP theft from inside cannot always be prevented since disgruntled former workers may attempt to steal trade secrets and provide them to rivals and other parties.
How to prevent IP theft
- Maintain current operating systems and applications.
- Encrypt sensitive data
- Utilize data security software
- Ensure that all internal personnel use unique, complicated passwords for their accounts.
- Securely archive information on time
- Regularly monitor all user account activities
- Modify all passwords after learning of a potential data leak
- Manage the security settings for mobile apps and online accounts
- Establish device controls for removable media
- Related Article:
- Can AI-Generated Content be Intellectual Property Theft?
- Can Using AI for Creating Art be Considered Intellectual Property Theft?
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 22 years of practice defending a variety of cases.