Infringing on an intellectual property interest belonging to an individual or business entity can carry significant consequences. People tend to think of this time of claim as a business tort that is actionable in civil court, but there could also be criminal consequences.
A state prosecutor or the Department of Justice may elect to pursue criminal charges related to intellectual property theft. However, there are a few ways that someone may be able to successfully defend themselves against this type of charge.
An intellectual property interest lacks protection
There are several ways that intellectual property interest holders may forfeit their legal rights. For example, social media posts could relinquish a copyright.
An interest holder acquiesced to someone else’s use
Permitting someone else to use intellectual property is a good example of how interest holders can forfeit their exclusive rights to it. Even in the absence of giving explicit permission, being aware of someone else’s use and failing to take action for an extended period of time may preclude civil or criminal liability.
There is a lack of intent
In general, people cannot commit theft unknowingly. Intent is a key element of criminal theft. If defendants can raise reasonable doubt about whether they were aware that violated someone else’s intellectual property interests, they may defeat the charge.
Intellectual property litigation can have a big impact on people’s business activities, and liability could result in serious losses or even prison time. Anyone who is facing allegations of theft or infringement needs to work on building a strong defense.