It’s a nightmare scenario for any entrepreneur or business: you put your blood, sweat, and tears into designing a new piece of equipment, only to have it stolen by a competitor. Not only is it financially devastating, but it can also be incredibly demoralizing. So, what can you do when it happens?
The first thing to do is take a deep breath and remain calm. It’s important to remember that even though it feels like the end of the world, this is not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last. You can take steps to mitigate the damage and protect your business going forward. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Copyright Infringement vs. Trade Secret Misappropriation
As entrepreneurs, business owners, and designers, we constantly develop new ideas. We want to protect our intellectual property (IP) so that we can reap the benefits of our hard work and creativity. But what exactly is IP, and how can we protect it?
There are two main types of IP: copyrights and trade secrets. Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates your copyright by using your copyrighted work without your permission. Trade secret misappropriation occurs when someone acquires or uses your trade secret without consent.
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a type of intellectual property that allows the creator of an original work to have exclusive control over how it’s used, reproduced, distributed, and performed. Copyrights arise automatically when a qualifying work is created, and they last for the duration of the author’s life plus an additional 70 years. Some examples of works that can be copyrighted are books, movies, songs, photographs, and computer programs.
What is a Trade Secret?
A trade secret is a piece of information that is not generally known or readily ascertainable by others, and that provides its owner with a competitive advantage. Unlike copyrights, trade secrets do not arise automatically—the owner must take steps to keep the information secret. Examples of trade secrets include customer lists, manufacturing processes, and marketing strategies.
Build up your case
Building up your case when your equipment designs are stolen can be difficult, but it is possible. Having as much documentation as possible is important to show that the designs are yours. This includes keeping track of when the design was created, who worked on it, and any changes made over time. If you have a patent for the design, be sure to include that in your case as well. You will also need to show that you have been using the design in commerce and that the other party does not have a valid license to use it. If you can prove all of these elements, you will be in a strong position to win your case.
One of the best ways to do this is by working with a reputable equipment patent expert witness. This individual can help you to establish the extent of the infringement and to assess the damages that have been suffered. In addition, the expert witness can provide testimony regarding the value of the stolen intellectual property. With this evidence, you will be better able to prove your case and obtain the compensation that you deserve.
Send a Cease & Desist Letter
If you believe your design has been unlawfully copied, the first step is to send a cease & desist letter to the infringing party. This letter typically includes a demand for them to stop using your design and can also include a request for damages. It’s important to note that cease & desist letters are not legally binding, but they can be effective in getting an infringing party to stop using your design.
File a Lawsuit
If a cease & desist letter doesn’t work or is not an option for you, filing a lawsuit may be the best course of action. This is usually a last resort since lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming, but if you have evidence that your design was stolen and copied, it may be worth pursuing.
No one ever wants to go through the experience of having their equipment designs stolen—but unfortunately, it happens more often than you might think. If it does happen to you, try to remain calm and take some comfort in knowing that there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. First, determine whether the infringement is copyright infringement or trade secret misappropriation; second, send a cease & desist letter; and third, if all else fails, file a lawsuit. By taking these steps, you can protect yourself and your business going forward.