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Last Updated on: 12th October 2023, 10:02 pm
Intellectual property laws can be tricky to navigate. As an author, artist, inventor or business owner, you want to protect your ideas and creations. But sometimes disputes arise over who owns what intellectual property. In severe cases, the government may get involved and pursue criminal charges.
If you find yourself under investigation for an intellectual property crime, don’t panic. You have rights. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help protect your interests. This guide will give you an overview of intellectual property theft charges and how an attorney can defend you.
Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, like inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce. There are four main types:
Rights related to intellectual property allow creators to benefit from their own work. Without these protections, others could easily copy, distribute and profit from someone else’s creation.
Intellectual property theft involves taking someone’s IP without permission. This includes making unauthorized copies as well as stealing trade secrets. Intellectual property crimes may include:
Some violations are civil matters, handled through private lawsuits and cease and desist orders. But in certain cases, the government will get involved and pursue criminal charges.
Several federal laws prohibit intellectual property theft. Common charges include:
Trafficking counterfeit goods or services using a registered trademark without the owner’s consent violates 18 U.S. Code § 2320. Offenders may face up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine.
Reproducing, distributing, publicly performing or displaying copyrighted work without permission may violate 17 U.S. Code § 506 and 18 U.S. Code § 2319. Penalties include up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Stealing trade secrets or transmitting them without authorization breaks 18 U.S. Code § 1832. This felony can lead to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Stealing trade secrets to benefit a foreign government, agent or instrumentality violates 18 U.S. Code § 1831. Conviction carries up to 15 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.
Bypassing technological protections on copyrighted work breaks the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Offenders may face up to 5 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
In addition to the specific federal laws above, prosecutors can also bring charges like wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.
Several federal agencies combat intellectual property crimes, including:
If convicted of an intellectual property crime, you may face imprisonment, fines, probation, community service and restitution to victims. Collateral consequences can include harm to your finances and reputation.
The government often wields significant leverage in intellectual property prosecutions. But experienced criminal defense counsel can protect your rights at every stage. Here’s how:
If you learn you’re under investigation, a lawyer can intervene early to avoid charges. They may be able to:
If you are charged, a lawyer can challenge the admissibility of the government’s evidence through motions to suppress. Possible arguments include:
During litigation, counsel will aggressively test the prosecution’s case and raise all possible defenses, such as:
If pleading guilty or no contest to some charges helps avoid conviction on more serious ones, your lawyer can pursue a favorable plea bargain. They’ll also seek to minimize any sentencing penalties.
After conviction and sentencing, a lawyer can appeal on grounds like insufficient evidence, procedural errors, excessive punishment or abuse of discretion. Appeals may overturn a conviction, reduce a sentence or lead to a new trial.
If you’re under investigation or charged with an intellectual property crime, it’s critical to have an experienced attorney protecting your rights from the earliest stages. Look for a lawyer who:
With skilled counsel in your corner, you can avoid the harshest penalties and protect your future. Don’t wait to engage a lawyer if federal agents come knocking with IP theft allegations.
Intellectual property laws aim to protect creators and rights holders. But disputes and misunderstandings happen. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, stay calm and immediately contact a defense lawyer. An experienced attorney can often get charges reduced or dismissed. If necessary, they can mount a vigorous defense at trial. With the right legal advice, support and advocacy, you can achieve the best possible outcome and move forward with your life.
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