I am accused of infringing
You receive a letter from one of your competitors full of strong language and legal threats. In that letter you are accused of infringing someone's Intellectual Property rights. You are ordered to cease all your commercial activities.
There are major problems attached to simply stopping those activities, such as:
- loss of income;
- having to let down suppliers;
- idle machines and staff;
- damaging your image.
If you do continue your work, then that can also have some very serious consequences. Failing to respond to the letter can lead to fines or court proceedings.
There does not appear to be a good solution to this situation. In the worst case scenario your company will go bust or get caught up in lengthy legal proceedings. But it does not have to come to that. What is more: you may not even be infringing.
Get the facts
Our most important advice is: keep your head on. Whatever you do, do not respond before you have contacted a patent attorney. He or she will establish the facts and assess the problem:
- Which patent does the intellectual property right infringement involve?
- How has the scope of protection been described?
- To what extent do your activities come under this scope of protection?
- Is the patent in question (still) valid? If so, in which countries?
The other party's rights
We will first of all take a look at the other party's paperwork. Exactly which rights are you infringing and are those rights still valid? Does your product indeed fall under the scope of protection or have you developed an alternative that falls outside it?
Investigation into infringement of Intellectual Property rights
Next we investigate the product or the process. The accusation might be based on a misunderstanding, or there may not be a legal basis for the infringement. Are you really working on something comparable?
Validity of the patent
If your product or service does indeed fall under the other party's rights, we will investigate the validity of those rights. Was the patent granted with good reason and does it satisfy the criteria?
Sometimes it is possible to contest the validity of the rights. By doing so you may be able to get those rights removed altogether and therefore also the accusation that you are infringing.
Onto the defensive
After completing these steps it may turn out that you are indeed infringing. This does not automatically mean that you have to give up. There are plenty of ways you can reach an agreement with the other party. You can simply continue your business operations, for example, by:
- getting a licence;
- swapping IP rights;
- buying the patent from the claimant;
- developing around the patent.
In short, do not allow yourself to be thrown into confusion too much by an infringement accusation. However, you must take it seriously and get help. With a thorough investigation and the right kind of knowledge there are lots more possibilities than your nightmare scenarios make you believe.