When you own your own business in New York (or are least charged with the marketing one), you may quickly discover that achieving success often requires not only staying current with industry best practices, but also in observing and learning from your competitors. That may include taking some of the things that have helped make competitors successful and implementing them in your own business. Yet this prompts the question of at what point does doing so qualify as intellectual property infringement?
“Intellectual property” is defined as those creations of the mind that companies use to grow and support their brands. These can include products, art, literary material, names, logos and symbols. Certain processes and trade secrets might also qualify as intellectual property. Your competitors may cry foul any time it appears as though you are implementing one of their ideas. It is important to know, however, that not all such scenarios qualify as infringement.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, certain elements must be present in order for your case to qualify as intellectual property theft. These are:
- The contested works being protected by copyright
- You knowing the works were copyrighted yet still willingly using them
- You actually infringing on the the copyrighted works
- Proof that you acted to purposefully obtain a commercial advantage
The common theme throughout those four criteria is intent. If you never intended to infringe on copyrighted material, it may be difficult to present a case against you. Notice, too, how law leaves open the possibilities for authorized use of copyrighted materials. If you can show that your competitor was aware of your use if its intellectual property, you may be able to avoid liability altogether.