Disputes sometimes happen because somebody deliberately sets out to copy or mimic the logo, brand identity or intellectual property of another person or business. These cases are rare.
More often people find themselves in disputes because protecting their intellectual property rights was something they never really thought about. And sometimes they simply never checked whether names, images or ideas were already used and owned by somebody else, or whether they were allowed to use them.
Intellectual property disputes usually start with questions like these:
If it’s a misunderstanding rather than a deliberate action don’t do anything rash. People are usually reasonable if you act swiftly and constructively.
Somebody is using my idea, branding or design without permission. What can I do about it?
First, establish whether you have any formally registered rights. Is it actually your intellectual property in the first place? If you have trademark or registered design rights protection you are always on much firmer ground.
Before you act, think about whether somebody is really harming your brand or your business. Could their business reasonably be confused with yours? Are there other opportunities such as licensing you could explore? Coming down like a ton of bricks on a small business that doesn’t threaten you and made an ‘honest mistake’ isn’t great PR.
Often a formal letter from us is enough to get somebody’s attention and to make them take the issue seriously. Our aim is to make them stop what they’re doing with the minimum cost and inconvenience to you.
If they don’t respond constructively we’ll advise you of the most effective and efficient ways to enforce your intellectual property rights. We’ll discuss and agree the best course of action and you’ll know how much it will cost before we start.
I’ve been told I’m using somebody’s intellectual property – what now?
If you’ve used somebody’s intellectual property without realising, the first thing is not to panic. Just as important, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away – it won’t!
Next, get professional advice. Intellectual property law can be intricate and you will do more harm with an unconsidered and uninformed response. We offer a free 45 minute consultation which could be enough to put your mind at ease and identify what you need to do.
If you’ve made a genuine mistake most businesses just want you to stop using their property in a reasonable time. A response from a recognised intellectual property attorney will show that you are taking the issue seriously and may calm them down.
The response we recommend will depend on many factors including the following:
- Do they have clear and enforceable rights such as trademarks, design rights or copyright?
- Are you actually infringing those rights in a material way?
- Is the action they are requesting reasonable and enforceable?
Ultimately we want the best and least costly outcome for your business. This could be accepting their case and asking for a reasonable time to make changes, or it could mean contesting the case if it is unsound.
We’ll explain your options and their implications. We also take care of the correspondence to ensure that legal requirements are addressed appropriately and professionally.
Somebody is using my brand name even though I’ve registered the domain – can I stop them?
The short answer is probably no – unless you’ve also registered the name as a trademark. Internet domain names are an increasing source of intellectual property disputes. Top Level Domains (TLDs) such as .com, .co.uk, .uk are proliferating and too many businesses assume that domain names have a status in intellectual property law.
Registering all of the domain variations you might need (or want to prevent somebody using) is probably unrealistic. Even if you do manage to register every variation for every market where you plan to trade, you still have very limited protection of your brand name.
Simply registering a domain does little to prevent a competitor from registering a similar domain name (perhaps with a different TLD), or using your brand name or logo. If you have a registered trademark you have more chance of forcing your competitor to change their domain and to stop imitating your brand.
If online marketing and e-commerce are important, put robust intellectual property protection in place before you invest significant time and money in building your online brand.
We also help with domain name disputes. These are normally conducted through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or the World Intellectual Property Office arbitration service.
How to Avoid Intellectual Property Disputes:
- Carry out trademark checks to make sure what you want to use isn’t already registered.
- Include intellectual property rights in your business plan; work out what rights you need and in which countries.
- Don’t confuse internet domain registration with trademark registration.
- Have clear copyright rules and contracts in place for freelancers.
- Plan your intellectual property needs sooner rather than later.
Neglecting intellectual property could be a serious risk to your business. Contact Roger Moore and make sure you have the protection you need.