When you have worked hard to create compelling content and develop a distinctive brand image, it can be frustrating when another company uses your material or attempts to profit off your good reputation. It may also hurt your bottom line and give potential customers the wrong idea of what your business stands for. U.S. copyright and trademark law helps to protect creative content and identifying images or names.
Companies no longer need to register either trademarks or copyrighted material but doing so offers important protections. In addition to establishing a public record, registering your work gives you a legal presumption of ownership and an exclusive right to use the materials you have developed nationwide. Registration is also necessary if you choose to bring a lawsuit against another company that attempts to use those materials illicitly.
What should I do if another company breaches a trademark or copyright?
When an unauthorized person or business uses your trademarked or copyrighted work, your first step should be to send the infringing party a cease-and-desist letter. This letter should inform the party that it is in breach of your ownership rights and request that the party stop using the trademarked or copyrighted material within a certain period of time to avoid litigation.
In some cases, a cease-and-desist letter will be enough to stop further use—especially if the infringer was unaware of your copyright or trademark. If the party disregards your request, the letter becomes important evidence that the party continued to use material knowing that it was in violation of your ownership.
If the infringing party continues to use your work, you may file a lawsuit against it if you have registered the trademark or copyright. Legal penalties for infringement may include repayment of damages and profits, a certain dollar amount for each work infringed, attorney fees and court costs, and an injunction on future use of the material.