World Intellectual Property Organization

What Should Your SME do to Resolve Disputes Related to Intellectual Property?

The more valuable the intellectual property assets of your SME, the greater the possibility that others would want to make use of them, if possible, without having to pay for them. Do you have a strategy to prevent this? If despite your best efforts, someone is imitating, copying or infringing the intellectual property rights of your SME without your authorization, then what should you do? What are your options? How do you weigh the costs and benefits of various alternatives? Or would you simply rush to court?

You have the option to "ignore" the violation of the IP rights of your SME if the loss of income, sales or profits appears to be negligible from your point of view. If the scale of violation is already significant or will soon be so, then you must find out, as soon as possible, the culprits and deal with them expeditiously but methodically. At other times, however, you may be accused of stealing or infringing the IP rights of someone else intentionally or unknowingly.

If you have a dispute with a party to a contract with your SME, or a dispute in a business venture where there is no contract, it would be prudent to have included special provision in the pre-existing contract (if there is one) or, alternatively, to make a contract after the dispute arises, for the dispute to be referred for arbitration or mediation.

In those situations where there is an alleged infringement or a dispute, before taking any formal action, it would be prudent to seek legal counsel from a competent IP professional to more accurately assess the likelihood of a favorable outcome for your SME, at the lowest possible cost. The cost could be calculated in terms of the time that may be taken to obtain such a decision, the fees that you would have to pay to the court(s) and to your attorney(s), and the direct and indirect costs of alternatives that you would have to explore and follow in the event of a negative decision. You also have to assess the chances of winning your case, the amount of compensation and damages that you can reasonably expect to get from the infringing party as well as the likelihood and extent of reimbursement of attorney's fees in case the final decision is in your favor.

It is obvious that dealing with these kinds of situations requires a careful weighing of the pros and cons of different alternatives.

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