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How best to handle intellectual property issues

Though I am not a lawyer myself, nor have I any juridical education, I still suspect there's an area that someone handling a copyright, a trademark or any other intellectual property issue that isn't covered widely - especially by lawyers. Read on to understand why.

What's the problem?

Generally, the problem arises when someone uses your intellectual property for their own purposes, be it a stolen article, a similar-looking company/domain name or a trademarked phrase. In reality, these are issues that you need to deal with - but how you sort them out matters immensely.

What to do?

When it comes to reacting to copyright, etc issue, you need to consider the following:

  • whether at all you will suffer any financial damages if you don't do anything at all
  • how much you will suffer financially if you don't do anything at all
  • how important is the issue to you and the one who infringed on your copyrights
  • whether there's a way to peacefully solve the matter
  • what all you can do to stop your intellectual property violation

In short, you need to understand if it is worth the hustle.

The good way or the bad way?

While it is fairly easy to estimate how much your business will suffer from any infringement, finding a way to solve the issue in a way that will boost your business significantly is of highly importance - that's what you are paying attention to the matter, right?

Let's see the bad way first.

The bad way

Once you sight your copyright infringement, you hire a lawyer and have him/her send a cease snd desist letter to the offending party.

Pros:

  • your actions will be totally within limits of the law
  • if the victim can't afford the lawyers or can comply easily, you win

Cons:

  • you will be spending heavy cash on your lawyers, especially if the other party has help, too
  • you won't built a positive business relationship with the other party in your industry
  • you run a high risk of getting negative media attention to it (and I mean blogs, not necessarily print or TV)

As you can see, you will simply spend money regardless of the outcome, will drive your relationships with other people in the industry the wrong way. It is quite questionable, whether your financial losses due to the property infringement are worth that.

The good way

Instead of attacking a person, who have used your intellectual property on good or bad will, you can spend your efforts on building a positive relationship with him/her. Sounds weird? Think again.

Pros:

  • if you succeed, you will have another friend or even a partner in your industry
  • you can get very positive media attention, if you both make it public
  • you can significantly boost your business both by additional attention and the benevolent appearance, which builds trust
  • you won't be spending money, unless you specifically pay the media to promote the matter

Cons:

  • if you don't succeed, you can still reach a compromise to content both parties
  • if everything fails, you can say you tried and release your lawyer hounds on them

As you can see, the good way is way more efficient than the bad way. Let's see why exactly and how best you can go about it.

Stay positive

Wheneve you find someone infringing your intellectual property rights, your best bet is to build a positive relationship with them, because they are in the same industry as you are - that's the reason they use your material. This means that you can turn the offending party in your friend or a partner and thus benefit from it.

It means that you don't need any lawyer to solve the matter - just some patience, good will and a polite letter. I guess this is the reason most (or any) lawyers won't advise you to solve the issue peacefully - they need money and they try to make more and more money off you by forcing you to sue people instead of communicating with them.

You can offer the offender the following:

  • give you credit (a link) in the material
  • quote you and link to the original copy on your site
  • refer the interested people to you for more information

If it is not about stolen articles, you need to find a way that you both will benefit from.

At any rate, you need to start with a polite letter, asking to resolve the issue. If possible, offer ways on how to do that that the party would still benefit from you in one way or another (and give you credit for that, of course).

This way, whatever the exposure or benefit the offender tried to get from your intellectual property, will be partly or completely given back to you - and you will gain another person to refer the target audience to your website.

Examples

Just plain talk and no examples doesn't make it clear, does it? Here you go:

When someone steals your online article, ask them in a polite e-mail to link back to the original. If they don't respond or comply, file an DMCA with Google. No lawyers or anything. Just like that.

When Jennifer Laycock used the "the other white milk" slogan on her breastfeeding t-shirt, the Pork industry could have at least asked politely to remove the t-shirt (no lawyers involved) or suggested better t-shirt breastfeeding slogans for Jennifer. Instead, they opted for the bad way, and are facing the negative blogger attention now, which can not be cured that easily. If you want to support Jennifer, give the pork industry an e-mail for Jennifer (more contacts here).

Instead of suing Aaron Wall, Traffic Power should have taken a couple of SEO courses and improved the quality of their work, instead of making someone stop revealing the true identity of their business

Conclusion

When confronted with a problem, try to view it from an angle of how much positive reaction you can gain from it. Befriend the offending party, gain some positive media attention, establish trust with your audience and turn the whole situation in a huge victory on your part.

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