Is IP Infringement a Criminal Activity?
Infringement of IP happens in many different forms, but is it a criminal offense?
Word by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry
Is intellectual property infringement a criminal offence?
Typically, intellectual property is not considered a criminal offence, but rather a civil offence.
Despite this, there are some kinds of intellectual property infringement that can result in criminal sanctions.
For example, counterfeiting (which typically results from a range of other criminal activity) can result in criminal liability.
For the most part, criminal sanctions only come into play with commercial-scale counterfeiting (trade mark infringement) or copyright offences.
Note that patent infringement does not typically fall under criminal liability. This is as a consequence of the likelihood of accidental infringement, and the technical aspect of infringement when it occurs.
It is also important to note that whilst IP infringement itself may not result in criminal sanctions – it may bring attention to other activity surrounding it that will.
If IP infringement is typically not a criminal offence, how is it sanctioned?
It is not uncommon for our team to be asked how copycats are punished for infringement if they are not sent to jail!
Civil matters are resolved through remedies that are compensatory rather than punitive (as in criminal law). In this way, they are designed to stop and limit the damage to the infringed party and restore their financial position.
This can include legal actions such as: cease and desist notices, injunctions (interim and final), as well as damages and costs awards.
In order to achieve the best outcome from an intellectual property claim (whether enforcing or defending), it is best to speak to a specialist team.
Specialist teams are able to identify the liability and fight for the best possible outcome for your within the confines of IP law, a unique and specialist area.
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For more IP answers, review our FAQ section here.
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Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.
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