Intellectual property theft can result in civil liability and criminal prosecutions. The United States has various statutes meant to protect other people’s inventions and creations.
However, the laws governing intellectual property are wide and complex. Anyone can find themselves on the wrong side without even knowing.
Different law enforcement agencies including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are constantly on the lookout for individuals suspected of intellectual property theft.
IP theft prosecution can lead to steep penalties and years in prison. An indictment will generally depend on the available evidence given by the prosecution side.
It is important to retain an experienced lawyer in case you are accused of intellectual property theft. This will help the defense lawyer to prepare a strong case on your behalf.
For federal law enforcement agents, their main objective is to fight IP theft by foreign and domestic entities. According to the Federal Investigation Bureau, intellectual property theft cases have been on the rise.
What is Intellectual property theft?
Intellectual property theft refers to accessing or utilizing the company or business of another person without their express permission. For example, using the name or products of another company through illegitimate means.
Most federal IP theft cases involve cybersecurity intrusions, economic espionage, and other high-tech means.
People who leave corporate positions with physical assets are also at risk of being convicted for intellectual property theft.
Any type of intellectual property protected by federal laws can result in criminal prosecution. This includes the following:
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trademark secrets include information that can either be a program, compilation, pattern, process, device, or technique.
For anything to qualify for the definition of a trade secret, it must be used for business purposes.
A trademark is an indication of the original or origin of something. Under the Lanham act, product names, brand logos, company names, and other business identities can be protected by federal law. In most cases, trademark theft is charged as counterfeiting.
Federal copyright laws guard the expression of creative ideas. Just like trademark and trade secrets theft, violation of copyright laws can lead to civil liability and criminal prosecution.
Copyright laws are somewhat confusing and most businesses often violate unknowingly.
Patent laws are formulated and enforced by the federal government. They are designed to protect inventions and develop exclusive rights for new discoveries and inventions.
Despite the fact that there are no stipulated penalties for patent infringement, anyone accused of patent theft can be charged under the laws that prohibit wire fraud.
Penalties for intellectual property theft
Penalties for IP theft varies according to the particular intellectual property asset that has been stolen or counterfeited.
In most cases, the penalties are extreme to discourage others from engaging in such actions.
Below are some examples of IP theft penalties:
• Trade secret theft: Up to 10 years in prison in addition to statutory fines
• Copyright theft: Ten-year imprisonment and statutory fines
• Trademark counterfeiting: A fine of up to $5 million for corporations and $2 million for individuals with a possible 10-year life in a federal prison
• Wire fraud: 30 years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars
• Economic espionage: Up to $10 million fine for corporations and up to $5 million for individuals
• Aggravated identity theft: Up to 2 years in prison and other fines as directed by the presiding judge
How the FBI and other law enforcement agencies unearth IP theft
The federal investigation agency, the Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies normally depend on sources from the public and affected corporations or businesses.
How can corporations and persons charged with IP theft avoid indictment?
The only way to avoid possible conviction is by hiring experienced intellectual property theft attorneys. Experienced IP theft defense lawyers understand how intellectual property laws work in the country.
It is important to contact them as soon as you find out that you are being investigated for IP theft.
Whether it is an individual or a business, a strong defense can shield you from hefty fines or a prison sentence.
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