What is Intellectual Property Infringement and how can you avoid it?
Intellectual property (which includes patents, copyrights, trademarks, designs and trade secrets) is an intangible but often highly valuable part of a company’s assets.
It is best practice for any organisation to have in place effective procedures to prevent anyone else unfairly benefitting from the creativity behind intellectual property.
Equally important, however, is the need for a company to ensure that it does not inadvertently infringe upon the intellectual property of others.
UK law provides strong protection for assets of this type and the consequences for impinging on another organisation’s rights can be severe in legal, financial and reputational terms.
We will look in greater detail below at the issue of intellectual property infringement and consider ways in which it can be avoided.
Due to the complex nature of intellectual property and the laws which protect it, anyone with concerns over these non-physical assets is advised to obtain specialist advice.
Trademark Eagle’s expert team is highly experienced in the area of intellectual property and can provide you with bespoke guidance to ensure you avoid potential problems.
What is intellectual property infringement?
Intellectual property infringement is a term applied to any activity which unfairly encroaches upon the rights of the owners of intangible assets like registered patents, copyrights and trade marks. While such a transgression may be inadvertent, this is no defence under the law.
It is important that all of a company’s employees understand the ways in which infringement of intellectual property can occur.
Examples of this include:
Trade Marks are an incredibly powerful and valuable asset, and examples include, brand names, logos, designs, shapes, colours and sounds. Using someone else’s trade mark, or something similar to it is likely to be an infringement of the owners’ rights for which they can take legal action to stop damage to themselves. This includes a claim for an account of turnover or profit, as well as costs and in some cases an immediate injunction to stop infringing use.
Patents provide protection for those who have used their ingenuity and creativity to invent a new product, process, design and so on. Anyone copying that invention without permission would be committing intellectual property violation.
This applies to items such as books, screenplays, photographs, musical pieces and prohibits others from copying or distributing the work without permission. Crucially this also applies to the internet so a company could be guilty of intellectual property infringement if, for example, its social media team used a photograph or piece of music without permission.
A design can be registered to provide legal protection over aspects such as the shape, configuration and decoration of a product. Once again, copying any of these without permission could be viewed as intellectual property infringement.
This term refers to things which are not in the public domain and give an organisation a competitive edge over its rivals. It could be considered an example of intellectual property infringement, for example, if a new member of staff shared details of market research carried out by a previous employer.
How can intellectual property infringement be prevented?
There are severe penalties under UK law for intellectual property violation making it imperative that companies put in stringent measures to prevent it from occurring. Practical steps that can be taken include:
An awareness of the dangers of intellectual property infringement should lie at the heart of all organisations with employees provided with the knowledge to tackle the issue in their respective roles.
Staff should be provided with regular bespoke training on how to avoid the infringement of intellectual property. For example, those working in product development must be aware of patents held by rival businesses while the social media team must have procedures in place to ensure they do not share words and images that infringe upon someone else’s rights.
An area in which companies can be particularly at risk of committing intellectual property infringement is when new employees join the organisation. All staff should be made aware of the company’s policy towards the infringement of intellectual property as part of their induction training and also undertake not to disclose any trade secrets to which they may be privy from a previous employer.
Intellectual property violation sometimes occurs inadvertently with company employees unaware they are infringing upon another business’s rights.
Ignorance is no defence under UK law, however, and so it is important that companies have a database (regularly updated) containing relevant information including details of patents held by competitors, non-disclosure agreements that the business is bound by and so on.
Using original material to avoid copyright problems
There are additional practical measures that can be put in place within employees’ daily operations that can also help to avoid problems.
Social media teams, for example, could have a library of images they have copyright permission to use and a policy of creating original written content rather than sharing the material of others.
Under the Intellectual Property Act 2014, someone commissioned by the company to produce an image (e.g. a logo) retains the copyright for the design unless otherwise agreed. It is advisable, therefore, for the business to ask the designer to assign the copyright to them in order to avoid subsequent issues.
When it comes to the use of trade marks, checking that you are not violating the rights of anyone elsewhere in the world can be an onerous task. Trademark Eagle’s online search system together with our team of specialists (which includes qualified trade mark attorneys) can help you avoid the pitfalls of intellectual property violation. Working with the highest levels of confidentiality, integrity and professionalism, we can provide you with the tailored support you need at an affordable price.
We are renowned for our excellent customer service and will be delighted to provide consultations via email and live chat.
How can I find out more about Trademark Eagle?
To learn more about how Trademark Eagle’s expertise can help your company in the area of intellectual property, please get in touch by phone (0808 1890 219) email (email@example.com) or via our online contact form.