Avoiding unpleasant surprises

Albright IP patent attorney Frederick Noble explains how to respond to an allegation of intellectual property infringement


Getting a lawyer’s letter saying you are infringing someone’s copyright, trade mark, design or patent can be an unpleasant surprise. These letters often assert multiple rights, make threats of large financial damages, and demand a response on a tight deadline. How do you start thinking about a reply?

Obviously, you need to get some good advice and representation. At Albright IP we have plenty of experience handling this type of problem and we can guide you through the process. Every case is different, but I think it is possible to say a few general things about the right approach to take.

First, gathering all the relevant information is important. There are two sides to every story, so what is your side, and what evidence do you have to back it up? This is particularly the case where there has been an allegation of copying. Most of our clients are running businesses which are fundamentally honest and generally sensibly managed, and so it might be tempting to say that “copying just doesn’t happen here”. But sometimes things go wrong.

Getting to the bottom of exactly what has happened might need some investigation internally. Identifying any mistakes which have been made by you or your employees at an early stage is really crucial to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line and resolve the problem with the least cost and disruption.

Secondly, try to keep an open mind and have a think about what you might be able to do to circumvent the problem. How important is the particular trade mark, product, or whatever it is the other side are complaining about? Can it be changed in a way that distances it from whatever it is that the claimant says it has rights in?

We are experts in intellectual property and its limitations. You are the expert in running your own business. It is actually by combining these two areas of expertise that we are often able to resolve infringement problems without great expense and disruption. So, if you’ve received a nasty letter, don’t panic! Get in touch and we’ll work together to sort it out.