Affordable ways to enforce intellectual property
If you don’t have at least two million dollars laying around to sue for patent infringement, this post is for you. Thankfully, you can enforce intellectual property without spending your life savings. In fact, these options for intellectual property enforcement are quite affordable if you know how to take advantage of them.
You may be wondering why bother getting a patent if it’s too expensive to enforce it. Let me share some good news for startups and small businesses that might change your mind about patenting.
How to enforce trademarks inexpensively
Let’s start with trademarks. At the outset, register your trademarks for your more important products and services. Make sure to file your trademark applications properly. Don’t even think about being cheap when it comes to trademark registration. Without a properly registered trademark, you’ll end up with fewer options and greater costs to enforce your limited trademark rights.
So how can you enforce a registered trademark inexpensively?
First, you can record a trademark registration with US Customs to block the import of infringing goods. Not all marks, however, qualify. To be eligible, your trademark registration must exist on the Principal Register and cover goods as opposed to services.
Second, you can add your trademark registration to the Amazon brand registry. Instead of spending thousands in court, you can stop competitors from using a similar product name on the ecommerce platform for a fraction of the cost.
Finally, there are several inexpensive alternatives to trademark litigation. In certain circumstances, a cease-and-desist letter may accomplish your objectives. Recognize, however, that the recipient might try to be the first to file a lawsuit by filing a declaratory judgment action in their home court. In other words, the accused infringer may try to force you litigate in their home state if they sense that you will sue them in your preferred location.
How to enforce patents affordably: Cheaper alternatives to patent litigation
Unfortunately, the US does not provide patent owners with an efficient system for licensing patents. It is an expensive, burdensome and time-consuming slog to get businesses to take a patent license. That being said, there are some options for enforcing patents inexpensively when it comes to consumer goods.
If infringing products are being sold on Amazon, you have some options. At the outset, you can report the infringing product listings using Amazon’s report infringement form. If a design patent is being infringed, Amazon may remove the listing without further effort from the patent owner.
Recently, the ecommerce giant has launched a way for Amazon sellers to resolve a utility patent dispute. Known as Neutral Patent Evaluation or NPE, a patent owner may request that a neutral evaluator make a determination on whether certain listings infringe a utility patent. Each side must pay a fixed fee to the evaluator, but the prevailing party gets a full refund. NPE is not exactly free for the winner since they still have to pay their attorney’s fees. Nonetheless, the NPE option provides patent owners with an alternative IP enforcement system that avoids the outrageous costs of litigating in federal court. In essence, Amazon has created its own legal system, or patent court if you will.
Not everything, however, is sold on Amazon though it may seem that way these days. Patent owners may still consider the cease-and-desist letter option, but beware of the declaratory judgment risk discussed above.
Sometimes litigation might be the most cost-effective option. If you ultimately conclude that is the case, then consider how a more aggressive go-for-the-jugular approach may lead to the desired results more quickly. In litigation, the less time spent will generally equate to less money spent.
Does cheap IP enforcement exist?
Intellectual property enforcement may not be cheap, but it can be affordable. There are, however, certainly cheaper ways to enforce IP as discussed above. Ultimately, any serious effort at enforcing IP will require some investment of time and money. Hopefully, you feel encouraged knowing that such IP enforcement options are within reach.