What Is Intellectual Property Theft?

Have you heard of intellectual property theft? It’s a crime that can victimize individuals and organizations alike, and with the advent of social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, is more rampant than ever. Learn from the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot the specifics of this crime, how it affects victims, how it’s proven and prosecuted, and what you can do if you’ve been accused of intellectual property theft. 

How does the law define intellectual property theft?

Intellectual property theft is a crime that can negatively affect people or companies when their property — be it trade secrets, creative expressions and artwork, music, inventions, ideas, software, products, and more — is stolen, causing them financial and emotional harm.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), intellectual property theft causes the United States billions of dollars a year. What’s more, this theft further financially harms the county and its citizens by costing us jobs and associated tax revenues. 

Digital technology has given rise to intellectual property crimes

As is the case with many of today’s criminal activities, the advent of new digital technologies has given rise to intellectual property crimes. 

Due to the fact that intellectual property laws are both lax and difficult to enforce in other countries around the world, this is where many such crimes can take place, especially with the increased prevalence of digital file sharing. 

In order to protect individuals, businesses, and U.S. economic interests, the FBI has placed an increased emphasis on monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting intellectual property crimes. Their particular focus? Intellectual property crimes related to trade secrets. Effectively managing these crimes requires coordination with law enforcement officials at the local and international levels, including all agency jurisdictions in between. Not doing so effectively can cause real economic and safety problems, especially when product ideas are stolen and reproduced in a manner that doesn’t adhere to standard U.S. regulatory standards.

Investigators are broadening their partnerships to combat intellectual property crimes

In order to be more effective in their efforts to protect copyrighted material and its owners, federal law enforcement created the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an agency dedicated to combating illicit trade and protecting intellectual property and public safety. 

Though many rightly think of intellectual property theft in terms of artists’ or musicians’ work being copied or plagiarized, or of corporations having their patents stolen — all of which are illegal acts — there are severe public safety related consequences associated with intellectual property theft. 

For instance, as recently as March 1st, 2021, the Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Border Enforcement Security Task Force seized nearly a half-million counterfeit 3M N95 surgical masks that were intended for first responders in the Pacific Northwest. 

This is just a few weeks after the February 17th, 2021 seizure of over 11 million counterfeit N95 masks that were intended for use by first responders and hospital workers. Such counterfeit materials would pose serious health risks no matter when they were distributed, but in the midst of a still-ongoing pandemic, the implications are worrisome, to say the least. 

Intellectual property crime seeks to exploit market demand

What’s clear is that if the market indicates a demand, be it a product, service, or piece of media, that there are imitators waiting in the wings hoping to illegally profit off of it. 

In addition to collaborating with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the FBI aims to closely collaborate with companies, brands, and copyright and trademark holders, as well as digital payment processors, advertisers, and online marketplaces in order to curb infringement.

More instances of intellectual property crimes

In August of 2020, two men were arrested and charged for shipping counterfeit military gear from China and Pakistan to the U.S. military, some of which had already been distributed. 

In July of 2020, two Ukranian nationals were arrested and charged for smuggling counterfeit drugs intended to be consumed by hepatitis and cancer patients into the United States. The accused face up to 20 years each in prison and millions in fines. 

In January of 2020, the Homeland Security Investigations team seized nearly 180,000 pieces of faked sports memorabilia that held a reported street value of $123 million. 

Intellectual property crimes can affect everyone

This is the remarkable thing about intellectual property crimes is their victims, depending on the specific crime, are all-encompassing. They can pose serious health and safety implications, like those that could cause harm to the sick, to first responders, medical professionals, and to our military members, or to those who are seeking the financial and nostalgic benefit of treasured sports ephemera.

What should I do if I’m implicated in an intellectual property crime?

The first, most important thing you should do if you are accused of committing an intellectual property crime is to secure legal counsel. This is a serious crime with potential jail time, fines, and other legal ramifications associated with it should you be convicted. 

In order to protect your freedom and your constitutional rights, you need an effective legal defense. For nearly fifty years, the legal team at The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot have been assisting citizens in protecting their freedoms through effective legal strategies that help secure the best possible outcomes for them. 

We understand that building a close relationship with our clients is just one key to creating increased success, and that having your back when you need it most can help you best navigate the stressful and sometimes intimidating justice system.
In need of legal counsel related to an intellectual property crime?
Call The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot TODAY for your confidential, free initial consultation. We’ll fight vigorously to defend you no matter what your situation looks like.