When the term “intellectual property” gets thrown out, most in Houston might automatically assume it to refer to high-tech information valued only by providers in technology related sectors. In reality, however, the phrase is much more far-reaching. The World Intellectual Property Organization defines IP as “creations of the mind.” Beyond inventions, this can include trademarks, patents and copyrighted materials. Designs and logos also fall into this category. Even something as simple as a geographical indicator that ties a reputation to a certain area (e.g., “Made in the U.S.A”) can also be considered IP.
The National Crime Prevention Council reports that the calculated worth of all IP in the U.S. may be as high as $5.5 trillion. Given the heft of this number, it is no wonder that companies go to such great lengths to protect theirs. Its infringement and/or misuse can not only result in measurable economic losses, but also widespread damage to a business’ reputation whose impact can be felt for years.
Upon discovering a potential IP theft, businesses are often encouraged to first contact the offending organization. In some cases, they may not be fully aware of the protected nature of the content, and could be willing to quickly negotiate a settlement in order to avoid litigation. If legal action is required, the first step the victimized company would take would be to seek injunctive relief. This would stop the continued unauthorized use of its IP. After that, compensation for any actual and presumed losses should be pursued, as well as all or a percentage of the gains the offending organization claimed from its use. In cases where the continued use of the content is permitted, the victimized company should also seek to draw a profit from it.