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Key facts about copyright infringement and substantial similarity

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | Business Law & Litigation

Protecting intellectual property is a must for California businesses and people who have innovated a product or service. However, many are not fully immersed in the law regarding these protections, how copyrights are used and what constitutes a violation. From the beginning, it is wise to know the basic facts about copyright infringement and substantial similarity.

Protecting intellectual property can avoid long-term problems

Intellectual property is anything that has been created through a person’s innovation. If, for example, they formulated a new type of software, this could be considered intellectual property. The same is true for a symbol, a logo, a discovery or a piece of artwork.

A property can be copyrighted if it is original and was the result of work from the individual who created it; it is creative with a level of imagination or thought going into it; or is tangible with others being able to touch, hear or see it.

Once there is a copyright and infringement is suspected, the owner must show their valid copyright, prove that the entity that infringed upon it had access to the original, and there is a substantial similarity between the two. For example, if a business was working on its product and an outsider saw it, created their own version of it and passed it off as their own, this could be an example of copyright infringement.

Those who were harmed could seek an injunction to stop its use; pursue damages; and recover legal fees. Regarding substantial similarity, this and access need to be shown to prove that there was infringement.

The work does not need to be copied exactly for there to be infringement. The court will need to look at various aspects such as how unique it is, its complexity and more. When there are mistakes that are made in both versions, this could be clear evidence of it being copied. If it cannot be shown that there was access, the products could be shown as so comparable that independent creation is viewed as impossible.

Intellectual property disputes generally warrant professional assistance


These issues can be complex and since it can be costly in myriad ways to have another entity commit infringement, it is imperative to have professional help from the start. This is true whether it is a new creation, an improvement on an existing creation or a combination.

Those who are claiming intellectual property violations or those accused of it need to know the value of experienced guidance. Contacting those who are creative and professional litigators and understand business law and litigation from every angle can be helpful in a case.