Intellectual Property for Lawyer Bloggers: When Infringement Occurs

Learn more about how to handle an infringement.

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In the final part of our series on intellectual property for lawyer bloggers, we’re talking about what happens when infringement occurs. (Of course, this is legal information only. If you think you need specifically-targeted legal advice, please consult a qualified lawyer!)

Whether you infringe upon someone else’s work, or your work is infringed upon, you should know what happens next

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, intellectual property infringement happens.

Sometimes it is accidental—maybe you don’t realize that a picture you found online falls under the Creative Commons and you don’t source it properly, or perhaps you created a cool shirt with your favorite song lyric on it to sell in your Etsy shop and didn’t know the phrase was trademarked. Other times, it is intentional—someone is trying to pass off your work as their own in order to profit from it. In either scenario, you should know what to do when intellectual property infringement happens. Read on to learn more about this important aspect of blogging.

Copyright Infringement

The most difficult part about copyright infringement is that you need to find infringers yourself. That is the likely reason why many bloggers get away with using other people’s work. It is also how you may not even realize someone is using your work and pretending it is their own. In any case, once you’ve identified a copyright infringement, you can go to the civil court system to try to get an injunction, and/or simply ask the person to stop.

At any point during this process, a judge may order that the infringing work is impounded. If the injunction makes it all the way through the court system, damages and profits may be due to the owner of the copyrighted work, and in rare cases, criminal actions are filed. This is an example of a very severe case—more often than not, a lawyer or the copyright owner will send a warning letter to the infringer, telling him or her to remove the infringing work, and the situation is resolved.

Creative Commons Infringement

As mentioned in the second installment of this series, Creative Commons is a way to protect your work with fewer restrictions than obtaining an official copyright would allow. It allows others to reuse the work as long as they source your original when they do so—this is especially helpful for pictures and photographs shared online. Catching people misusing a Creative Commons license is much the same process as catching someone with copyright infringement—you have to identify the person yourself and then take action. According to the Creative Commons website, they recommend two avenues of proceeding—you can either contact the misuser directly, or you can seek legal action. They also list lawyers who have expressed interest in representing people in Creative Commons-related matters.

Trademark Infringement

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, “trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.” In most cases, trademarked items would include brand names, logos, and other things of that nature, but could also include song lyrics or famous phrases.

The same procedure applies to trademark infringement as it does to copyright infringement—an injunction that the offender stops using the trademark is the first step, followed by the removal of infringing articles, monetary relief to the trademark owner, and potential criminal charges. Like with copyright infringement, in most cases, a letter is sent asking the infringer to stop using the work and the case doesn’t go any further.

As a general rule, lawyer-bloggers are more qualified to understand intellectual property issues as they pertain to blogging than the average blogger on the internet, but IP issues should definitely be kept in mind with each and every article posted. Infringement is not to be taken lightly—it can cause a lot of hassle and could potentially end a lawyer’s legal career.

This is why it is important to know what happens when infringement occurs so you know what process will be followed. Good luck with your blawg!