Many countries recognize a person’s right to exclusively use, make, or sell certain types of intellectual property, such as software products, brand name logos, designs, or recipes. These rights are commonly given in the form of patents, trademarks, copyrights, or trade secret protection. Intellectual property infringement occurs when a person or entity violates another person’s exclusive rights to intellectual property. The most common types of intellectual property infringement are patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret infringement.
In general, when a person receives a patent for intellectual property, he or she has invented something. The patent gives the inventor the right to exclude other people from making, using, selling, or importing the product. Patent infringement occurs when a person, other than the patent holder, makes, uses, sells, or imports the product without permission from the patent holder. For instance, suppose that Jane Smith has received a patent for inventing a certain kind of hearing aid. If John Doe starts to manufacture the same hearing aid, without Jane’s permission, he would be committing intellectual property theft.
Copyrights are commonly given to authors of original works, regardless of whether those works are published. Items commonly copyrighted include television shows, music, and movies as well as books, magazines, and websites. In a copyright intellectual property infringement case, the copyright owner may sue another party for violating the owner’s exclusive rights to the copyrighted work. For example, if a person illegally downloads songs from a website, she is guilty of copyright infringement.
Trademarks are symbols, words, logos, or names that are intended to differentiate one manufacturer or seller’s products from products that are made or sold by another person or entity. If symbols, words, logos, or names are given trademark protection, they cannot be used by other people without the owner’s permission. Trademark intellectual property infringement occurs when a person or entity uses a trademarked item without authorization. For instance, suppose that Company A has trademarked a logo that identifies Company A’s brand of sportswear. If Company B starts to put the same logo on its own brand of sportswear, Company B would be committing intellectual property theft.
Typically, trade secret items are confidential or proprietary information that an entity or person has exclusive rights to. A company’s pricing methodologies, computer software code, and the recipe for a specific soft drink are all examples of trade secrets. Trade secret intellectual property infringement cases frequently arise when trade secrets have been stolen. For instance, suppose that Company A is developing a new product. If Company B steals the product specifications in order to develop a competing product, Company B would have committed trade secret theft.