Copyright law is one of the most misunderstood areas of the law by laymen, as well as many attorneys. Klein & Wilson is experienced in handling copyright infringement cases and is one of the relatively few firms that have actually taken a copyright infringement lawsuit to verdict.
Klein & Wilson obtained a $1.4 million federal jury trial verdict in a copyright infringement case against a major retail chain. See more of our significant case results in copyright infringement disputes.
Copyrights are valuable assets that must be protected, or they can be lost.
Protecting Individuals And Businesses From Copyright Infringement
Because it has handled copyright infringement cases from both the plaintiff's side and the defense side, Klein & Wilson is in an excellent position to advise clients on the best ways to protect their copyrights.
Klein & Wilson's attorneys have handled a broad range of intellectual property and copyright infringement cases, including those involving:
- Fabric designs
- Jewelry designs
- Product and packaging designs
- Trade secrets
- Disclosure of product specifics to outside companies
- Name and branding concerns
- Stealing or using another company's logos
- Trademark infringement
Skilled Attorneys Handling All Types Of Copyright Issues Throughout Southern California
Whether you are an individual or business, plaintiff or defendant, the lawyers at Klein & Wilson have the experience, knowledge, and skill to effectively handle your pressing legal matter. Copyright infringement is a highly complex area of law, requiring trial attorneys with specific experience with these issues. Klein & Wilson understands how important a business's copyrights are to its continued financial success, and the firm works tirelessly to both pursue and defend infringement litigation, while advising clients on how best to protect their copyrights.
Klein & Wilson is one of Orange County's premier copyright infringement litigation law firms, protecting the interests of large and small businesses throughout Southern California.
Creation Of Copyright
Under the Copyright Act of 1976, any original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression can receive copyright protection. This protection attaches to the work as soon as it has been "fixed" by being written down, recorded, or embodied in some other reasonably stable and permanent way.
Since 1989, a work no longer needs to contain a copyright notice for it to have copyright protection. However, placing proper notice and registering one's work with the United States Copyright Office can prove beneficial should a dispute later arise.
Copyrights and trademarks are different creatures under the law. Copyright law is generally associated with some original expression of ideas, such as artwork, fashion and jewelry design, photography, sculpture, software, music and lyrics, screenplays, novels, books, etc. Trademark law deals with protecting symbols (for example, the Nike "swoosh"), words, devices, and sounds to identify a particular product, manufacturer, or service. Sometimes the law of copyright and trademark will protect a single product at the same time.
A copyright holder possesses several exclusive rights to that work and has the additional right to sell, transfer, or license any or all of these exclusive rights to someone else. In the case of work created by an employee for an employer, the employer is considered the author.
Infringement upon any of the following rights can give rise to a copyright infringement lawsuit:
- The right to reproduce or copy the work
- The right to adapt the work to create a new work (called derivative work)
- The right to distribute the work or copies of the work
- The right to publicly perform or display the work, including putting it on the Internet
Either the copyright owner or the owner of an infringed exclusive license can sue for copyright infringement. To prove the infringement of one or more exclusive rights, the plaintiff must show the alleged infringer had access to the original work. This includes situations where an employee involved with creating an infringing work had access to view the original work or if the original work was widely distributed to the public.
Infringement occurs when the two works are "substantially similar," proof of which is broadly defined by the courts. To establish substantial similarity, the plaintiff must generally prove an ordinary reasonable person would conclude a defendant has appropriated the original work. The plaintiff must also prove that its work was substantially taken, either quantitatively or qualitatively. For example, a competitor could copy just one aspect of a company's work and be liable for infringement if it is an identifiable or important aspect of the work.
Infringement can also be indirect if the indirect infringer knew about the infringement and materially contributed to it in some way. Alternately, vicarious infringement can occur when a party has the right and ability to supervise the infringing activity and a direct or indirect financial interest in the activities.
Several defenses are available to those accused of copyright infringement, including:
- The defendant proves ownership of a valid license
- The original copyright holder abandoned the copyright ownership
- The copyright is being used to violate public policy (for example, antitrust laws)
- Fair use: This defense employs a complicated test that is highly dependent on the facts of each particular case
- State copyright laws
Federal law preempts the majority of state law cases related to the unauthorized use of copyrighted works. The one exception comes in cases where the claim has at least one extra element that must be proved. Therefore, claims based on breach of contract, trade secrets theft, or fraud are typically allowed to proceed in state court, whereas unfair competition claims based solely on an unauthorized reproduction of a work would likely be preempted by federal law.
Available Relief For Infringement
In addition to injunctive relief, which forbids the infringer from engaging in any further unauthorized use, statutory damages and non-statutory monetary damages are available in copyright infringement cases. Statutory damages are generally anywhere between $750 and $30,000 per infringement, based on the judge's discretion, but can be as high as $150,000 per infringement if the infringement is deemed willful. If the plaintiff registered his or her work with the United States Copyright Office, compensation for attorneys' fees may also be available. Non-statutory damages include lost profits, the loss of future exploitation of the work, and recovery for profits wrongfully attained by the infringer, so long as it does not overlap with plaintiff's actual losses.
Contact The Newport Beach Copyright Protection Lawyers At Klein & Wilson
To reach our experienced attorneys about copyright matters, e-mail Klein & Wilson today or call us at 949-631-3300 or 877-857-0073 toll free.