Intellectual property consists of the ideas and inventions that businesses and individuals create for their own purposes. This property is legally protected from infringement under the copyright, patent and trademark laws currently in use in the U.S. At Millstone, Peterson & Watts, LLP, our staff knows that in many cases, infringement of intellectual property misappropriation can pass from the civil realm into a criminal matter.
According to Stopfakes.gov, an intellectual property rights site maintained by the multiple federal agencies, criminal laws for these types of violations are clear, and have been set up specifically to act as a deterrent for those who would routinely violate the rights of businesses and individuals. The four most significant laws currently in use today include the rules on counterfeit trademark crime, the theft of trade secrets, criminal infringement of copyrighted works and the counterfeit labeling provision. Infringement of a patent is currently not considered a criminal offense.
The counterfeit trademark laws make it illegal for offenders to intentionally use a counterfeit trademark. This occurs when a true trademark is used on a product or service that is not offered by the trademark owner. For example, this occurs when businesses illegally sell fake designer products by placing authentic trademarks or brand names on the items. The counterfeit labeling provision provides criminal penalties to those who choose to attempt to sell movies, books, artwork, computer programs and other documentation or packing using fake labels.
If convicted of one or more of these intellectual property violations, defendants can face significant prison time as well as penalties of several hundred thousand dollars or more. To learn more about this topic, visit our web page.