If someone claims you have stolen their work, you need to understand what, if any, protection they had.
People and companies can protect their intellectual property (IP) in one of three ways:
1. Trademarking it
How do you know who makes or owns a particular product? Typically you know because of a logo or phrase on the packaging. That identifying feature will typically be trademarked. Well-known ones include Macdonald’s yellow M logo or Nike’s phrase “Just do it.”
2. Copyrighting it
This is what those in the arts usually use to protect their IP. For example, musicians typically hold the copyright to their lyrics and authors to the material in their books.
3. Patenting it
Patents protect processes and inventions. For example, if someone dreams up a new way of processing waste into vehicle fuel, they could patent it. If a pharmaceutical company comes up with a new drug to treat cancer, it could do the same.
What are the 2 big differences between the different types of IP protection?
Copyright is generally automatic. When someone creates a piece of work eligible for copyright, it’s given they hold the copyright to it. By contrast, people must apply for a trademark or a patent.
Secondly, others can use copyrighted material to a certain degree. For example, teachers can copy a few pages of a copyrighted book to use with their students. Musicians can play another musician’s song in their local bar. There are limits to this, however. By contrast, using another person’s trademarked or patented IP could land you in court straight away.
Each of the three protection types will need a different defense strategy. If someone alleges you breached their IP rights. Get legal help to understand how to react.