In educational and workplace environments, the cultivation of original ideas and creations are cherished. The state of Pennsylvania endorses the significance of authenticity by implementing laws that outright prohibit the theft of intellectual property. Intellectual property takes on various forms, ranging from design formulas to a new recipe that is protected by patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These individualized creations are fiercely protected by law, exposing those who are accused of committing this crime to harsh legal ramifications.
Intellectual property theft is an expensive crime, costing national businesses massive amounts of money. Therefore, the enforcement of this crime is prioritized on the list of federal agencies and state agencies alike. Investigations are likely to go on for extended periods of time with extensive amounts of evidence being collected against you. This is why it's important to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney that can challenge this evidence and give you a fighting chance in court.
If you have been accused of committing the crime of intellectual property theft, your first and immediate step should be to consult with an attorney. An attorney can provide you with workable and suitable legal options for your distinctive circumstances, work towards sentence reduction, or apply defenses that can get your case completely dismissed. Your next step would be to learn the system you're up against. Understanding the state of Pennsylvania's laws and penalties regarding the theft of intellectual property will be important in recognizing the gravity of this offense, and making wise decisions in the aftermath of acquiring charges.
Intellectual Property Theft Laws in Pennsylvania
Defining “intellectual property”
As indicated above, intellectual property comes in many forms. However, when referencing the state's take on this crime, intellectual property will be sorted into one of four categories: trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents.
- Trademarks: A trademark refers to a word, symbol, phrase, or design that is representative of a product or service, and distinguishes a business from its competitors. For example, the Jordan “Jumpman” design identifies his particular brand of shoes.
- Copyrights: Copyrights are established to protect authentic creations of authorship. Forms of intellectual property that are typically copyrighted are music, books, sculptures, photographs, sound recordings, paintings, architecture and computer software. Copyrights exist the moment a specific work becomes tangible, such as music notes on sheet paper or a painting on acrylic paper.
- Trade secrets: A trade secret is a process, device, formula or any other business information that companies use as a weapon to gain leverage over their competitors. A famous secret sauce in a recipe could be an example of a trade secret.
- Patents: A patent exists to protect the creation of a new invention. With a patent, the creator can legally prohibit other people from selling, making, or using the invention without permission. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant.
Due to technological advancements, intellectual property theft has become more prevalent. In recent times it's been labeled a common white collar crime. In this digital age chock full of file sharing, streaming services, and related actions, it is relatively easy for the theft of intellectual property to occur. In fact, it's become so commonplace that some defendants may not be aware that they have broken the law.
The penalties imposed for this crime are based on the type of intellectual property theft that has allegedly occurred. Pennsylvania law references the falling examples of intellectual property theft crimes and penalties:
- Criminal copyright infringement: Known as one of the most common federal crimes, copyright infringement can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. In order to prove this crime, a prosecutor must provide evidence that a defendant intentionally reproduced and/or distributed ten copies or more of works that are copyrighted. A person can be fined to as much as $30,000 for each item that was illegally reproduced and/or distributed
- Theft of trade secrets: This offense will be graded as a felony. However, the degree of the felony charged will be based on the circumstances of a crime. The theft of trade secrets is charged as a third-degree felony if a person unlawfully takes a trade secret, and either steals it, or makes a copy of it, with authorized or unauthorized access. This crime will be charged as a second-degree felony if a person unlawfully takes a trade secret using excessive force, or if a person maliciously enters a building to accomplish this goal.
- Camcording: Also known as recording movies in theaters, camcording is a federal crime. It is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, a minuscule action that you may not perceive to be significant can lead to harsh penalties like costly fines and a prison sentence. With over 15 years of experience, Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented clients who've acquired both misdemeanor and felony intellectual property theft charges, and he can do the same for you. For the maximized chance of receiving a favorable outcome in court, contact him today at 215-535-5353.