Someone Stole My Design! Now What?

by Melanie Eich

With great innovation comes a greater likelihood of others copying, borrowing, or blatantly stealing your design work. Your design or piece of art work may end up in someone’s home down the street, on the internet, or in a gallery in another country without your consent. The real question is what can you do to stop the infringement?

First, be sure that your idea was actually recorded and that it wasn’t something you had just thought of doing. In order to have copyright protection, your idea or design has to be put into a fixed, tangible medium. While your work does not have to be officially registered at the United States Copyright Office, it will help you recover statutory damages that you could not receive otherwise.

Second, was there any reasonable way for the alleged infringer to access your work? That may be difficult to prove depending on the medium of your work and where it was on display. However, if your work was put on the internet, it may be easier to say a person would have access to it.

Third, if you discover that the alleged infringer reasonably had access to your work, contact a lawyer to send them a cease and desist letter. This letter will contain a takedown notice, which generally demands the infringer to stop using or selling the copied work within a certain amount of time. If the demand letter does not work, you may be able to get the work taken down under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Finally, if none of the above has worked you will need to decide if your work is valuable enough to bring litigation against the alleged infringer. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of litigation as it can be costly, but it may be worth it to protect your brand and designs.

Please contact Clements & Shackle at 317-426-0581 if you would like to learn more about copyright protection and how it is relevant to your small business.