Infringement: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business

October 21, 2020  |  Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd.

At some point, many business owners face the threat of infringement and are challenged on their use of a business or product name. For some it is simply an accident, and the “fix” may be as easy as changing a name. But what should you do when confronted with a cease-and-desist letter or lawsuit? Read our blog as we discuss infringement and how to protect yourself and your business.

Types of infringement

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School defines infringement as “a violation, a breach, or an unauthorized act.” There are different types of infringement depending on the situation. In a commercial contract, an infringement occurs when one of the contracting parties breaches the contract terms. In intellectual property, an infringement relates to an unauthorized use of any copyrighted material or patented invention. This can be trademark, patent, or copyright infringement.

How to protect yourself and your business

In many cases, infringement on another is done unwittingly. However, regardless if the infringement is an accident, the law is very clear. Your first course of action should be to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can help you understand the law and your rights. Your attorney will be able to advise you on whether a response is required. Because the use of someone else’s intellectual property (like a logo) can be costly, don’t ignore the claim.

Situations that can generate an infringement claim

  • Selecting a name for your company that already has a registered trademark – Before you set up your company, check the secretary of state’s website or Google to make sure the name is available.
  • Advertising your products by comparing them to someone else’s products – There are strict rules on how you can use someone else’s products in your advertising so make sure you understand them.
  • Using names for your products that are very similar to well-known names of similar products – Certainly most people know not to produce a running shoe and put the Nike® logo on it, but you can also run afoul of intellectual property laws by producing a running shoe and putting “Nite” on it. 
  • Using photos or content you didn’t create in your business – While there are some fair uses and some free content, don’t assume that something on the internet can simply be re-used without permission.

Taking the time to research and understand infringement can save you time, money, and headaches down the road. Barna, Guzy & Steffen has an outstanding team of corporate and business law professionals available to talk to you about your specific needs. Contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you