The industrial age ushered in a new era of business. Not only could physical products be bought, sold or traded, but so, too, could intangible items. Since the early days of the United States, the government has recognized the value of intangible assets. Today, the creation of virtual assets is a sound business model.
One issue with virtual assets is that they can easily be copied or reproduced with relatively little trouble. An individual or company that invests time and money into creating something such as a computer program or an original recording can stand to lose a lot of money if their product is unlawfully distributed.
The right to sue
Because some virtual assets are so expensive to manufacture, in terms of time, labor and resources, legal avenues exist to allow patent owners to sue individuals or companies that unlawfully use their products.
An individual or company may be prosecuted for unlawful uses of intellectual property. Piracy applies to entities who do the following with unlawfully obtained intellectual property:
- Make copies
- Distribute copies
- Use copies
- Make derivative works
Companies that have been victims of piracy may pursue legal action for monetary compensation and potentially to imprison the perpetrator.
When piracy is not applicable
Laws regarding copyrights have their limits. While a company may be able to establish a legal right to the distribution of their own intellectual property, that right cannot be established to protect an idea, fact, method or something involving expired copyrights.
Furthermore, companies cannot sue when intellectual property was lawfully bought, sold, willed or given away. But typically for these scenarios, a receipt or legal transfer of ownership will have been created or taken place to assure legality.
Generally, companies that feel they have been unlawfully harmed, either monetarily or otherwise, are free to take legal action against their perpetrators.