Intellectual property (IP) is an umbrella term for any non-physical assets owned by a company. This typically includes patents, trademarks and copyrights.
Non-physical or intangible assets are usually an outcome of long hours and money invested by organisations and individuals. These assets are safeguarded by the owning entity and are given similar status to physical assets. Given the investment by the owning entity, these assets are protected so that they are not accessed by others without due credit given to the owner. Most economies have measures and regulations in place to protect such intangible assets.
Intellectual property infringement refers to any breach or violation of your intellectual property rights. If an organisation’s work that is protected under IP laws is copied or used without permission, it qualifies as an IP breach or infringement.
There are several types of intellectual property infringements.
- Patent Infringement: When an innovator gets a patent on his/her invention, any use of part or whole of that invention without permission is an infringement. The claim granted to the patent holder usually defines the extent to which another entity can use or sell the patented invention. The extent of the claim can also vary by geography. For example, a patent registered for an innovation in India may only prohibit the use or sale of the invention in India. However, the same can be done outside the country.
- Trademark Infringement: A trademark is a recognisable visual attached to a product or company that distinguishes it from any other. This includes logos and other forms of brand identity. Any use of this trademark without permission from the owner is considered an infringement of the trademark. Using a visual that is similar enough to create confusion with respect to the registered trademark is also considered an infringement. An interesting case of tradesmen infringement is Zara Food v. Zara Fashion. The fashion retailer Zara registered an infringement case against a restaurant in New Delhi called Zara Food due to the uncanny similarity in the brand name which would create an association between the two entities in the minds of the consumers. The court ruled in favour of the fashion brand which had been operating in India since way before the restaurant was launched. An owner of a trademark may take legal action against the infringer, especially in cases where the infringement may tarnish the owners, brand, reputation or goodwill.
- Copyright Infringement: A copyright is a form of IP that grants the owner exclusive rights to create copies of his or her creative work and could include work ranging from literary, artistic, musical and more. Owners typically hold the right to reproduce or display their work, and even create derivative works from the original. Any use of such copyrighted material without authorisation is referred to as a copyright infringement. It is also referred to as piracy. For example, visual creators license their work to Shutterstock, who further licenses the work to individuals or organisations through a standard agreement. Users pay Shutterstock, who then passes on the proceedings to the creators. Any use of the uploaded material without a payment made to Shutterstock is considered an infringement of the rights of the creator/owner.
Owners can initiate legal proceedings to be rightfully compensated for an infringement of their copyright.
While getting to know that someone has misused your IP can be challenging, there are certain steps one can take to halt its misuse. Globe Detective Agency specialises in detecting and verifying such activities and taking the necessary next steps to protect your IP.