How Can I Avoid Infringing on Other’s Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property probably wasn’t the first thing on your mind when you decided to start your business, create your work or invent something new, but making sure you are not infringing on the intellectual property rights of others is an important consideration nonetheless. Infringement of the intellectual property right of another could result in a major expense and a lot of headaches—both of which will prevent you from growing your business, creating more art, inventing new products, or doing other things you’d rather be doing.

Because of the nature of business start-ups, entrepreneurs run the risk of violating the legal limits of intellectual property rights of others in many ways nearly every day. It’s important to carefully consider the decisions you make, particularly with regard to the use of graphics, slogans and product components. You need to be certain that you aren’t using work that doesn’t belong to you. If you hire an outside source to create something for your business—like graphics, written content, coding or a website—ownership of the created work doesn’t automatically transfer to you. You need to have a contract that explicitly states that the creator is giving you his or her rights to that work.

Stacy is an independent web designer and Sam hired her without a contract to design a website for his auto parts store. Stacy created a unique graphic of a tire for Sam’s site and, after the site was finished and Sam had paid her, Stacy decided to use the same graphic for another client. Sam was furious when he saw that she had used the same image for another client but, because they did not have a contract saying that the work she created belonged to Sam, Stacy owned the design and was free to use it over and over again—even for a competitor.

Here are some steps you can take to stay out of legal trouble for intellectual property infringement:

Search first.

Before you begin promoting a product, piece of content or other material for your business, research related patents, trademarks, and copyrights to make sure your idea is not already protected by someone else’s intellectual property.

Read the fine print.

Make sure you understand the terms and conditions in contracts or licenses for online images, music, video or other content before licensing or using them. Download and save a copy (after reading and understanding it) to refer to for any future questions.

If you’re not sure, ask a lawyer.

Get legal help when you’re not sure about whether you’re infringing on the intellectual property rights of others or if you receive a notice about potential infringement.

Contact an Intellectual Property Attorney

Whenever you have questions about intellectual property, you should consult with an experienced IP Attorney at War IP Law PLLC. We will take the time to answer your questions and, if needed, can take immediate action for you to protect your IP and defend against infringement claims. Call us today for a consultation.