When people hear about using private investigators, they usually conjure images of overweight and out-of-work disgraced police officers sitting in grimy cars with a camera while a spouse cheats in a hotel room. Isn’t TV entertaining? The truth is far from these situations. Private investigators are professionals who dedicated themselves to uncovering the reality of a situation using time-tested methodologies.
As for cheating spouses, sure, those cases happen every once in a while, but more commonly, the work is related to verifiable documentation and checking into the verifiable situation of a case. For example, intellectual property rights.
What is Intellectual Property(IP)?
At its core, intellectual property refers to anything created by your mental capabilities. This does not mean physical things like a building where workers get together to create the final piece. Instead, it most often refers to inventions, writing, music, designs, software, and other creative pursuits.
There is so much law surrounding intellectual property rights because it can mean big business. Disney is the perfect example. Every cartoon you see or ride you enjoy is considered an IP. Take just the creation of Mickey Mouse. That sole character is responsible for the entire empire and has so many protections on who can use, license, or recreate the character in order to protect the rights of the original owner.
If you were to write a book today, you would want to make sure no one can steal your creation tomorrow and claim it as their own. That is the basis of IP law. The internet has made it way too easy to steal t-shirt designs, cartoons, or concepts from other creators because everything can be done digitally. You do not need to be an artist to recreate Mickey Mouse anymore.
Why Hire a Private Investigator for IP Rights
This is almost always about money. You see IP rights come into play a lot in cases involving trademark infringement where one company is essentially knocking off the designs or artwork of another company. Etsy, the popular online shopping platform, has a ton of IP violations that often go unchecked. The thief collects the orders and income and then closes their account before anything more can happen to them.
The reason to hire a PI for this kind of violation is evidence. A quality team of professional private investigators will be able to verify who is behind the theft and then collect detailed evidence that can then be used in a legal situation. This could involve ordering from the offending company and keeping a complete record of their interactions as evidence or tracking down the details of the actual company owner.
The end goal is to file a lawsuit. Most companies that feel their IP rights have been infringed upon will want to seek financial damages that recoup some of the lost income, but also financially harm the offending company from having the resources to do the same thing to someone else.
A Detailed Intellectual Property Investigation
Counterfeiting goods is big business. Trade in fake goods is now 3.3% of world trade and rising. This is no longer about picking up that fake pair of fashionable high heels from the guy on the street in front of the Empire State Building. This is about major corporations having their designs ripped off by cheap manufacturers.
When someone buys a “knock-off” version of another company’s IP, they often get poor quality. That is because the detailed method of production or materials used are left out of the equation. That means those Air Jordon’s you think you are buying are really just slapped together leather from a sweatshop somewhere.
To prevent your brand from experiencing bad reviews and customer engagement due to someone else’s IP violation, you need a private investigation that will:
You want to know the details of who is behind the violation, including how to contact them and where to send the lawsuit and cease and desist letters.
If there is duplication of your IP occurring, you want a team experienced in evidence collation. Whether online or off, you need to have proof that someone is actually duplicated your product.
Qualified private investigators will know how to lay a pathway of digital crumbs that any lawyer, judge, or jury can follow. This will show precisely who and what is being copied.
Having photos and videos of the products being sold shows that the offending company or individual is seeking to profit from your intellectual property.
Law Enforcement Coordination
Experienced private investigators will know the ins and outs of coordinating with police and lawyers. That includes providing the detailed information needed to move forward with a case.
Types of IP Investigations
Legally recognized intellectual property has to go through a few different hurdles to be verified. There are times when the original creator is left out of that process and is not the actual owner of the IP. That is why you need to work with professionals that can document every step of your interaction, creation, and curation of the IP in question.
Most of the IP investigations involve:
- Copyrights – a form of protection designed to give creators the rights and ownership over their work. This includes writing, art, music, computer programs, advertisements, graphics, and more.
- Trademarks – a sign or symbol that separates one brand from another. They include everything from company logos to names, slogans, symbols, designs, and more.
- Trade Secrets – confidential information about the strategies, clients, processes, sales methods, formulas, and more that give one business a competitive advantage over another.
- Likeness Rigs – when one company or person uses another person’s image for commercial purposes without their permission.
A qualified private investigator will work back from the offending material that is uncovered. In other words, if a celebrity’s picture is used to sell foot cream and they never agreed to such an arrangement, a team will start with the commercial and then uncover who is behind it, how it came to be, and collect documentation, recordings, and other evidence. This will show that there was no arrangement between the celebrity and the foot cream company and that the company is profiting from the likeness of another individual.
How Will the IP Investigation Work?
Everything starts with a consultation. You will need to sit down with an expert team of private investigators like those at Privin Consulting Network. You will be asked a number of probing questions to find out the basic outline of what is happening and how the investigators can help remedy the situation.
There will be a lot of documentation and dated materials that will need to be collected. The goal is to show that you are the rightful owner of the intellectual property and that you did not give permission to another party to use that IP for commercial gain.
Once all the information has been collected, it will be arranged and organized to support criminal action by the police or civil action through a lawsuit.
Are there Exceptions?
While private investigators work hard to ensure your IP is properly protected, there are cases where the use of your IP is allowed. It is important to know the difference in case you run into one of these situations.
Almost every situation like this involves a company not trying to commercially profit from your IP, but simply working it into their overall messaging. The only real exception is fair use. This is when you use copyrighted material without a license for specific reasons. These include:
That is why you can see the McDonald’s golden arches in a news story about a recent theft. The news company is not trying to profit from the fast-food chain. They just happen to be a part of the overarching story.
That is also why this article can say things like “Where’s the beef?” or “Did I do that?” or even write out the lyrics to that latest number one hit on the radio. The research and commentary of the content does not mean profit.
How to Stay Safe
Unfortunately, there is no 100% way to avoid people trying to steal from your IP. The second you have a successful song on the radio, you will see hundreds of copies on YouTube where people are selling ad space. The same is true if you come up with a t-shirt design on Etsy and then find it all over Amazon by other companies.
What you can do is hire a professional team of private investigators to seek legal pathways that prevent the future abuse of your IP. Get started today by contacting us at Privin Consulting Network. We have experienced private investigators who understand the unique nature of IPs and how to properly document everything, so you get the protection you need for your creative pursuits.