Small businesses have their work cut out for them, particularly when it comes to keeping their noses out of trouble with intellectual property law and Internet patents. While there isn’t any copyright police per se reading every publication and webpage, current law makes it pretty clear that not only do businesses and website owners have to avoid intellectual property infringement, they can be subject to severe penalties if sued and infringement is proven in court.
The best course of action is to not get in trouble in the first place. Even if a business didn’t do anything wrong, just having to hire a lawyer and defend itself can be quite expensive, especially if the case goes to litigation. As a result, proactively following prevention steps can result in huge cost avoidance. Here are a few tips for how to avoid intellectual property infringement:
The first step towards avoiding infringement is to do proper research before posting material under a business name. The easiest method is to run a search engine query on the Internet. With so much of the Internet logged by major search engine companies today, written material is going to pop up pretty quickly.
A secondary form of research involves the U.S. Copyright and Patent Office. If a design or intellectual property has been registered, it will be in the government’s databases. However, finding these records can be a bit difficult, as the databases are very technical. Thus hiring a patent or copyright search service can speed up the process for a fee.
In either approach, finding the material owned by someone else can help avoid an infringement.
Encourage reports of infringement
The second step is providing a means by which a viewer or online user can report to the business a potential infringement. This can be a link on the company website or an address on the print media by which to make contact. By allowing parties to make a complaint, the material can be pulled quickly and further infringement can be avoided until the violation is actually confirmed.
This approach meets legal requirements and shows an intent to cooperate and avoid mistakes. Both are critical should there be a lawsuit. The suing party has to prove an infringing business intentionally disregarded intellectual rights and ripped off use of material. That’s hard to prove if a company tries ahead of time to cooperate in preventing violations.
Register ideas quickly
Finally, for any new ideas, writing or products, a business should register them as quickly as possible. By having the registered rights on record with the government, a business practically kills any argument saying the company stole an idea from someone else. The process proves the small business had the idea or design first as approved by the federal government.
Intellectual property infringement lawsuits are on the rise. Small businesses are often unable to afford the legal fees necessary to fight lengthy court battles, which is why it’s important for them to protect themselves in advance.