Infringement is the act of violating a law or a right, and is most commonly related to intellectual property.

Punishment for infringement can be either civil or criminal.

Civil penalties for infringement include paying back damages to the copyright, patent or trademark owner.

Criminal penalties for infringement can result in prison time and hefty monetary fines.

The three most common types of infringement are copyright infringement, patent infringement and trademark infringement.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement occurs when a copyright holder’s creative work is unjustly reproduced and/or distributed.

The eight types of creative work protected under copyright law are literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, pictorial/graphical/sculptured works, motion picture works, sound recordings, and architectural works.

Since not all expressions are protected, it’s important to know what is included in copyright law before claiming infringement. The copyright statutes can be found in their entirety in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Copyright owners have the exclusive rights to their work and are the only persons allowed to reproduce the work, make derivative works from the original work, distribute the work, display or perform the work. Terms for copyright can vary depending on when the work was created, and when the given term expires, the work passes into the public domain where it can be used without permission from the copyright holder.

Penalties for copyright infringement include hefty fines, attorney’s fees, and possible jail time. To avoid copyright infringement, obtain work legally by means of fair use and avoid any willful infringement.

If suspected of copyright infringement, it will be necessary to hire a copyright law attorney to defend your case.

Patent Infringement

Patent infringement refers to the unauthorized making or distributing of any protected patented invention within the United States.

Patent infringement can take the form of being direct, indirect, or contributory. Penalties for patent infringement depend on the severity of the involvement.

A direct infringer is someone who makes, uses, or sells a patented invention. Indirect or contributory infringers are those that knowingly sell, supply, or encourage the use of a patented item.

While patent infringement does not result in jail time, infringers can be sued by the patent holder. Resulting penalties include paying for damages to the patent holder if they should win the case, court-ordered prohibition against using or selling the patented invention, attorney’s fees and court costs.

Trademark Infringement

Trademark infringement occurs when an infringer uses a mark that creates a likelihood-of-confusion with a mark that is protected under trademark right.

When suing for trademark infringement, the plaintiff must show that they own rights to the mark and that the defendant has used a confusingly similar mark to create a likelihood-of-confusion and deception with the consuming public. Courts look at factors for likelihood of confusion such as the similarity in the overall impression created by the two marks, the strength of the original mark, and the degree of care by the consumer.

The most common penalty for trademark infringement is injunctive relief, but monetary damages are also sometimes collected. Additionally, the defendant will need to pay possible court costs and attorney fees.