You should enjoy the profits that come with creating something unique. When someone starts using your own creation for their own personal gain, you have the ability to take action to make things right. If someone is infringing on your rights to your intellectual property, you may be wondering whether you can sue them for copyright infringement.
A copyright infringement lawsuit can be brought by the owner of a copyright to prevent others from improperly using their property or to recover lost profits as a result of another party’s improper infringement. To bring a copyright infringement lawsuit, you must have already filed to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Your copyright infringement lawsuit must be filed within three years of discovering the infringement.
If you are being taken advantage of by copyright infringers, you deserve to know your rights. The intellectual property attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP have the experience to navigate the system and the dedication to get you the protection and compensation that you rightly deserve. To speak to us about your potential copyright infringement case, give us a call at (479) 717-9068.
Identifying Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement is the violation of the right of a creative innovator to own and control their own unique work. A copyright infringement occurs whenever someone else other than the rightful owner copies, performs, or distributes the copyright without the owner’s permission. Each time the infringing act occurs is a separate count of copyright infringement.
In order for copyright infringement to exist, the underlying work must be validly copyrightable under United States intellectual property law. There are several general guidelines that determine whether a work is copyrightable.
A work is protected by copyright law when it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” In other words, the work must have been in physical existence at some point in time. This requirement is very broad and easy to satisfy.
The work must have also been created by the owner and not copied from some other work. Works that are similar to others previously created are acceptable so long as the owner can demonstrate that their work was original and creative in nature.
If all the above conditions are settled, you will likely enjoy the protections of copyright law against potential infringers. Our Fort Smith intellectual property lawyers can answer any further questions about copyright requirements and protections that you might have.
Copyright Registration for an Infringement Lawsuit
Before you can sue another party for infringing your copyright, you must register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. It is important to know that you still have protection for a valid copyright regardless of whether you have registered it, so long as the copyright was created after January 1st, 1978. In other words, if you created a copyrightable work and someone improperly copies it before you have registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office, that person’s use is still copyright infringement. You simply must file your registration before commencing a suit against them.
There are certainly benefits to having already registered your copyright with the federal government prior to any instance of infringement. For one, any potential infringer will be unable to assert an innocent infringer defense in court. Put simply, the public record of your registration will prevent an infringer from claiming they didn’t know any better. Copyright infringement suits where the registration occurred prior to the infringement allow the plaintiff to recover statutory damages and attorney’s fees, which can greatly increase the profitability of a successful suit.
Statute of Limitations for a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
The statute of limitations (or time limit for filing a lawsuit) for copyright infringement claims is three years from the discovery of the infringement. In other words, from the time that you discover that someone is copying your work, you have three years to file your case.
However, you should remember that each instance of infringement is considered independently from another. For this reason, each time the copyright is infringed, the three-year statute of limitations is restarted. You can only recover for actual damages or income of the infringer for violations that occurred within the three-year period.
First Steps of a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
If you have decided that you are going to bring legal action to protect your copyright, the first steps of building your case are critical. You should enlist the help of legal counsel to help you prepare. You should start by collecting extensive evidence of any infringement activity. This includes gathering images of the infringing product being advertised and sold either in stores or online.
You should also organize records that show your own creative efforts that resulted in the original copyrighted work. These will be bolstered primarily by your copyright registration that was filed with the U.S. Copyright Office, but extra evidence is always helpful, especially when your attorneys are composing your complaint.
Benefits of Acting Early in a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
If you have a work that is potentially copyrightable, or if you feel that your existing copyright is being infringed upon, it is important for you to act quickly and decisively. Early action often leads to the most lucrative outcomes. Our attorneys can help you register your copyright and prepare your complaint. We can also help you negotiate an amicable settlement with an infringing party so that you retain your rights and are compensated for violations without having to go through a long court battle.
Victim of Copyright Infringement? Let Us Protect Your Work
At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, we know the value of your creative product. You deserve the protections and rights that the federal government provides. To speak with one of our Rogers, AR respected intellectual property attorneys about your copyright infringement case, call us at (479) 717-9068.