What is an Infringement Claim?

Ken Black

In its most general sense, the term infringement claim simply refers to a situation where it is claimed someone's rights were violated by the actions of another. More specifically, an infringement claim often refers to a violation of a copyright or some other type of intellectual property theft. The claim is often based on plagiarism, meaning someone steals the creative work of another person in an attempt to earn some sort of reward, be that in the form of notoriety, or money.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Though there are high-profile claims, many infringement claims never get a lot of attention. Often, the company or individual first making the infringement claim tries to handle the issue by directly approaching the supposed offending party. The party claiming the infringement may simply ask that the other party stop using a trademarked or otherwise protected item. Such use could be mistaken as an endorsement by the other company. If the demands are met, or a compromise is agreed upon, there is often no other action taken.

For example, a daycare may paint an image of a popular, but trademarked, cartoon character on the wall without the permission of the character's owner. If that takes place, the owner, which is most likely a movie or television production studio, could seek an injunction or some other legal action to prevent the daycare facility from displaying the character. Often, the daycare may have the option of purchasing officially-licensed images, or perhaps buying a license to display the image that was already created. In many other cases, the image is simply removed.

In cases where there is a clear financial reward based on an infringement, the claim could go into the court system. There, the claiming party, often referred to as the plaintiff, seeks compensation for damages. Doing this often involves using a skilled intellectual property attorney who is well versed in intellectual property law. These cases could receive a great deal of attention, simply because the lawsuits could be worth millions of dollars.

In order to be successful in a lawsuit where an infringement claim has been made, there are generally two factors that need to be proven. The first is that the claimant is the owner of the work. The second is that the alleged violator had no rights to use the work. In some cases, the claimant may also need to prove when the work was first produced in order to establish he or she was the first one to create the intellectual property.

If an infringement claim has been made against a party, there are a number of defenses that can be used. The most common is likely fair use, which states that part of an academic work can be used for the purposes of review or critique. In such cases, there are certain requirements that must be met such as the quoted portion of the work must be attributed, and cannot exceed a certain percentage of the entire work.

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