intellectual property patent stamp

Intellectual Property Theft: Your Complete Guide

What is intellectual property theft?

IP Infringement (intellectual property theft) is a violation of a persons intellectual property rights. This could mean the theft of technology protected by a patent or something as simple as a teenager downloading music from a torrent website. Intellectual property rights are defined as any work or product protected by IP laws are used or copied without having permission from the individual who possesses those rights.

One can protect their rights by filing a patent, trademark or copyright, so the inventor or creator the right to litigate against the infringer. It is their best chance at being compensated for the damages the infringer imposed on their business.

Examples include:

  • Counterfeiting products – this happens when someone copies, emulates or imitates genuine goods. You commonly see counterfeit goods such as fake Gucci or fake Ray-Bans. These products are often imitated at a lower quality and cheaper price to take advantage of the better value of the fake product.
    counterfeit Nike shoes
    Counterfeit Nike Airmax shoes


  • Using a trademarked logo or name for profit- This is when a business will use major brands in tandem with their marketing efforts to attract new customers who think their brand is associated.This happens quite often in the auto industry where you may see auto repair shops promoting the BMW logo for BMW repair services and such.
  • Piracy or theft of digital products (e.g. music, videos, movies, etc.) – Piracy is an unauthorized copying, use, reproduction and/or distribution of materials protected by IP property laws. Downloading music from torrent sites for free rather than paying for it is a perfect example of piracy. Think Napster or Limewire.
  • Copyright infringement (e.g. plagiarizing copy or content on a website) – This happens often when people steal content from popular blogs in order to make their websites appear to have quality, unique content without putting in the work.

Is Intellectual Property Infringement a crime?

The short answer is Yes. IP infringement is a serious crime, in fact, a federal crime. The department of justice and FBI prosecute infringers frequently.

Some of the consequences for intellectual property theft include:

  • Criminal fines.
  • Imprisonment for several years.
  • Seizure of the stolen property, documents, or materials.
  • Loss or suspension of a business operating license.
  • Civil charges filed by the victim of the crime.

Common defense against IP infringement include:

  • Lack of intent.
  • Lack of ownership rights by the plaintiff.
  • Unclean hands

How to stop/prevent theft of intellectual property:

Hiring an attorney to help you file a patent or trademark is a great start. Filing a patent or trademark gives you much more power to enforce your rights in the event you experience Intellectual property theft.

For patent infringement, you will most likely want to hire an attorney who specializes in patent law for your industry. Patent attorneys can be very focused on certain industries or broad, depending on their strategy. If someone has infringed on your intellectual property rights or patent, get in contact with a certified patent attorney.

You will want to hire an attorney who specializes in IP law for any type of Intellectual property theft case. They understand the practice at a much deeper level than attorneys who usually practice other types of law like personal injury.

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