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Responding to intellectual property infringement

Most entrepreneurs in California and around the country understand the importance of intellectual property and take steps to protect it, but they are often unsure about what to do when their logos, branding, formulas, inventions or trade secrets are used by others without their permission. Pursuing intellectual property litigation can be costly without guarantee of a successful outcome, so entrepreneurs may be wise to attempt to resolve this kind of dispute amicably before involving the courts.

Before deciding on a course of action, intellectual property owners should learn as much as they can about the infringer and their goals. Infringement is sometimes unintended or minor and may not warrant an aggressive response, but a more robust approach could be justified when the infringer is a competitor, a former employee or someone who has violated the intellectual property rights of others in the past. Business owners may also wish to determine how much the infringement in question is damaging their companies before taking legal action.

The damages awarded in intellectual property disputes can be significant, and a cease and desist letter may be all that is needed to deter further infringement. This type of letter identifies the intellectual property involved and the name of its owner, and it should make the infringer aware that their activities have been noticed. These letters should be drafted carefully as an overly combative tone may be inappropriate if infringers have not acted knowingly or maliciously.

When the infringement of intellectual property poses an immediate or significant threat to a commercial venture, attorneys with experience in this area may suggest eschewing a cease and desist letter and pursuing litigation right away. Attorneys may also suggest a more vigorous approach when the injured party has had prior dealings with the infringer and efforts to resolve matters amicably were unsuccessful. In such situations, attorneys might seek an injunction to halt the infringement immediately and prevent further economic damage.