Where a copyright has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the copyright owner has the ability to assert that copyright in federal court. Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of a protected work.  Examples of unauthorized use include reproduction, display, distribution or performance of a protected work.

Copyright infringement occurs where the copyright owner is able to show (1) ownership of a valid copyright and (2) copying of the copyrighted work that results in a work that is substantially similar to the original.  Copying can be inferred from evidence of access to the copyrighted work and similarity to the copyrighted work.  Ultimately, substantial similarity is determined from the perspective of an ordinary observer.

Remedies available for copyright infringement include injunctions to stop the infringer from continuing the infringing acts as well as damages to make the copyright owner whole.  Copyright owners can generally recover actual damages (i.e., the amount of money they would have made had there been no infringement), but only to the extent they can prove actual harm.  In some instances, however, a copyright owner may instead be entitled to statutory damages, which require no proof of actual damages.  The availability of statutory damages can make copyrights a very powerful type of IP protection.

In situations where litigation is not a favorable option, copyrights can also be licensed and even transferred. If some situations, these transfers might not be valid unless they are in writing and signed by the copyright owner.

Moreover, a copyright owner may register the copyright with U.S. Customs to prevent the importation of infringing copies. This requires the preparation and filing of an application, along with the payment of a fee.  This recordal lasts for twenty years unless the underlying copyright expires before that time.

Whether you are a copyright owner or an alleged infringer, Renner Otto’s IP Litigation Group has the experience to help. In federal court, at mediation and in licensing negotiations, Renner Otto’s attorneys have represented clients in copyright cases related to works ranging from architectural designs to photographic works.