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What is Infringement Litigation?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Infringement litigation arises when an individual treads on someone else's rights to intellectual property. Intellectual property is protected in most jurisdictions by various legal protections, including copyright laws and trademark laws. If a person violates these laws protecting intellectual property, infringement litigation arises.

Within the majority of countries, the law recognizes a value in the exclusive right to intellectual property. Protecting such property can be difficult, because anyone can reprint a book or rewrite the notes to a piece of music, for example, As a result, the law permits the owners of intellectual property to file a lawsuit if their rights to their property are interfered with. This encourages people to continue to produce creative and artistic works.

The nature of infringement litigation depends on the type of infringement. Copyright, for example, protects artistic works that are purely artistic and serve no practical function, such as books, paintings or other art or music. Trademarks protect identifying marks, such as the Nike "swoosh" or the interlocking C's on Coach purses. Patents protect the ideas and designs of functional inventions.

When someone steals copyrighted material by reprinting a book, for example, infringement litigation can occur. Infringement litigation can also occur if someone uses a trademark illegally, perhaps by making designer knock-off purses. If someone begins making an invention that a different individual holds a patent for, the patent holder may also sue for infringement.

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Generally, during an infringement lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove both that he has the exclusive rights to the property and that someone else interfered with those rights or violated the protections afforded by copyright, trademark or patent law. This can involve providing examples of the infringing work, such as introducing an exhibit in court of one of the designer knock-off purses or of a sample of the invention in a patent case. The plaintiff may be awarded monetary damages if he suffered losses as a result of the infringement and/or an injunction may be granted which orders the individual who stole the intellectual property to stop using it without permission.

If a person is accused of infringement, he will be responsible for defending himself during the infringement litigation. This can involve showing that his use of the copyrighted work was "fair use," which means he was using it for a legitimate purpose permitted under the law. He can also demonstrate that he did not violate copyright, patent or trademark rules because his product or invention was sufficiently different from that owned by the plaintiff.

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