Competition plays a significant role in the success of your business. It also promotes innovation, imagination and creativity which you may ultimately transform into protectable intellectual property rights. Your advances, however, may invite competitors to infringe on your intellectual property rights.
In today’s digital age, it is especially easy for business owners to launch their designs and get them in front of consumers. It is also easier than ever for competitors to copy those designs.
Copycats are an increasing risk businesses face. So, what should California business owners do if a competitor copies their design, for example?
BEFORE: PROACTIVE STEPS FOR PROTECTION
As a threshold matter, it is critical for business owners to take steps to protect their designs long before they face the risk of a competitor copying their design. When first creating a design, you should:
- Understand the rules: Learn what designs the law protects, as well as how these protections work in the event of an infringement.
- Protect your intellectual property: Take the steps to establish and secure the ownership rights and protections of your intellectual property. Properly register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office and obtain a trademark for your logo or brand design.
- Make a plan: This step is twofold. Create policies and establish security measures that protect your intellectual property. Additionally, consider your strategy for how you will handle the situation if a competitor does copy your design.
AFTER: STEPS TO TAKE IF THE DESIGN WAS COPIED
If a competitor has copied your design, then immediately:
- Consult legal counsel: It is important to ensure you understand your rights as well as your options for moving forward to protect your intellectual property. Seeking professional counsel can help you manage this issue while still focusing on your business.
- Send a cease and desist letter: This is an essential step. It gives your competitor legal notice that they are infringing on your rights. These letters require careful, precise language. That is one of the reasons why it is important to consult counsel before sending a cease and desist letter to the infringing competitor.
- Take legal action: If you send a cease and desist letter and the competitor continues to use the copied design, then you can file a lawsuit to secure your rights and recover the damages your business may have suffered.
Be proactive! You own the design that is unique to your business. It is what possibly gives you the edge in the business world, so take steps to protect it.