There are countless businesses operating in any given economic niche. While some businesses are truly bound by their geographic location, the internet has made many distant companies competitors. As a result, virtually any business offering goods or services to the public competes with many other businesses doing the same.
Intellectual property rights, such as trade secrets, patents, and copyrighted materials, help set a business apart from its competition by giving it a competitive edge. For example, patents and trade secrets allows a business to offer better products, cheaper services or unique options that customers can’t get anywhere else. Trademarks and copyrighted works can also help build a brand that commands customer loyalty. In some cases, intellectual property can be a source of revenue for a business if a business reaches a licensing agreement with others who would like to use its intellectual property rights, such as patented ideas or copyrighted creations.
Unfortunately, simply establishing intellectual property protections is insufficient. The intense competition on the domestic and international markets means that businesses need to be ready to enforce their intellectual property rights when a violation occurs.
No one consistently polices businesses for violations.
There are no outside authorities whose sole responsibility is to monitor company operations and take action when there are intellectual property violations. Domestically, it is often the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that handles intellectual property enforcement. Although some action may be taken on obvious intellectual property violations, such as dangerous counterfeit good cases, typically those with intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks and copyright protection, have to bring violations to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
Some companies have a profit motive to try to get away with intellectual property violations. They may try to reverse-engineer technology protected by a patent or duplicate copyrighted original works, possibly by printing them on t-shirts or uploading them to social media sites. International businesses often take more chances with intellectual property violations because they assume that international enforcement will not be worth the effort involved.
Businesses can protect themselves from the harm that aggressive competition can cause by consistently monitoring their competitors and the internet for signs of intellectual property violations. Taking the time to formally register for copyright, trademark and patent protection can also be a smart decision. Businesses may have to send written warnings to those that infringe on their intellectual property rights and be ready to go to court when necessary.
Recognizing how competition could lead to misconduct by other businesses may help owners and executives to make informed decisions that better safeguard their interests.