Protecting your Intellectual Property Rights

Posted by on Monday, March 12th, 2012

“We’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property. Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people. It is essential to our prosperity and it will only become more so in this century.” —President Barack Obama, March 11, 2010

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) describes intellectual property as “creations of the mind”. I think that is a wonderful way to describe such an amorphous concept as intellectual property. As a writer, I completely understand what it is like to protect your work, whether it is art, literature, inventions, names, images, symbols or commercial designs.

Because of the growing threat to intellectual property rights, from teenagers downloading music from bit torrent sites to corporate espionage, governments around the world are implementing enforcement strategies to protect the intellectual property of their people and businesses.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is “the United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity.”

From their website:

We promote the development and use of the international IP system through:

  • Services – We run systems which make it easier to obtain protection internationally for patents, trademarks, designs and appellations of origin; and to resolve IP disputes.
  • Law – We help develop the international legal IP framework in line with society’s evolving needs.
  • Infrastructure – We build collaborative networks and technical platforms to share knowledge and simplify IP transactions, including free databases and tools for exchanging information.
  • Development – We build capacity in the use of IP to support economic development.
  • We also work with our member states and stakeholders to improve understanding and respect for IP worldwide. We provide economic analysis and statistics. And we contribute IP-based solutions to help tackle global challenges.

In June, 2010, Vice President Joe Biden announced the U.S. Government’s intellectual property enforcement strategy to protect the rights of intellectual property owners.

From the 2010 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement:

Through this process, we identified a number of actions the Federal government will take to enhance the protection of American intellectual property rights:

1. We will lead by example and will work to ensure that the Federal government does not purchase or use infringing products.

2. We will support transparency in the development of enforcement policy, information sharing and reporting of law enforcement activities at home and abroad.

3. We will improve coordination and thereby increase the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement efforts at the Federal, state and local level, of personnel stationed overseas and of the U.S.Government’s international training efforts.

4. We will work with our trading partners and with international organizations to better enforce American intellectual property rights in the global economy.

5. We will secure supply chains to stem the flow of infringing products at our borders and through enhanced cooperation with the private sector.

6. We will improve data and information collection from intellectual property-related activity and continuously assess domestic and foreign laws and enforcement activities to maintain an open, fair and balanced environment for American intellectual property right holders.

The academic writing title=”FBI cyber anti-piracy” href=””>FBI is actively fighting and investigating intellectual property theft and has a number of programs in place to fight this international crime wave.

“Preventing intellectual property theft is a top priority of the FBI’s cyber program. We specifically focus on the theft of trade secrets and infringements on products that can impact consumers’ health and safety, such as counterfeit aircraft, car, and electronic parts. Key to our success is linking the considerable resources and efforts of the private sector with law enforcement partners on local, state, federal, and international levels.”

Patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets are all forms of intellectual property.

The average person often doesn’t think about the impact of intellectual property theft, even when they are committing the act themselves.

That knock-off designer purse or watch may look like the real thing for a fraction of the price, but you are stealing the designer’s intellectual property when you stash that iPod in your fake Prada handbag. If your iPod is loaded with pirated music you downloaded from the Internet, that is also theft. Your children may be guilty of downloading pirated music or movies from the Internet. You should educate them and point them in the right direction. A gift certificate to a legitimate downloading site, such as iTunes, allows them to download music and ensures that the artist is paid for the creation.

Patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets are all forms of intellectual property. How do you protect your intellectual property? In my previous post, I wrote about Patent Trolls, companies that buy up patents and then licence them. Your products and processes should be protected by patents. Obtaining a patent is a lengthy and complicated procedure and you should consult with a patent attorney to guide you through the process. Even within a company, disputes over ownerships of patents can become a problem. If an employee of a corporation designs a product, you need to have contractual agreements in place determining who is the rightful owner of the creation.

A trademark or servicemark gives you the rights to the name of your product or service. If you have a unique name for your product, you need to register that name so that no one else can use it. Seek the advice of an intellectual property lawyer. A lawyer will help you perform a trademark search to ensure that someone is not already using the name you have chosen and register the name so it will be yours.

Works of literature or other written work, music, drama, photographs and other recordings are protected by copyrights. It is not necessary to file for a copyright. As soon as you produce the work you should place a copyright symbol beside the name of the author. One way many authors protect their work is by emailing a copy to themselves as proof of the date it was written. You can go that extra step by registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office for a fee of $35 if you register online or $50 if you register using Form CO.

If you write for the Internet, anyone can copy your work. Someone could be copying this post right now. Most Internet writers and bloggers want to spread their work throughout the www. Feel free to share this post. The problem arises when someone takes something, such as this, and claims authorship. As long as you acknowledge the source of photographs (such as we do here) or written work, you are giving the creator their due.

I’ve heard many people say that there is nothing original in this world, and we all steal ideas. Partly true. Many inventions and works of art were inspired by historical works or products. Much of the content of this post came from information I obtained from other sites. The difference is that I have put it into my own words, and if I have used quotations marks and cited the original source material.

If you have a product that has been counterfeited, or your patents or trademarks have been infringed, it can be difficult to find the source. Most of the counterfeit goods are manufactured overseas, usually in China, where manufacturing costs are next to nothing. If you are manufacturing your product in China, you are at even greater risk of intellectual property theft.

China abides by international agreements to protect intellectual property including the World Intellectual Property Organization. You need to registered your patent or trademarks with Chinese agencies to protect your creations in China. There is a tremendously informative article on this subject “Protecting Your Intellectual Property Rights in China.” It is a bit out of date, but according to a number of other bloggers who are far more knowledgeable in this area, such as James J. Beck of The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, or Don Harris of, it still relevant. The US-China Business Council is working together to fight this problem.

Our people at Sheer Investigations and Brand Sentry  have extensive experience in intellectual property theft solutions and investigations. We can help you protect your “creations of the mind.”


Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.

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