The internet makes it easy for people to discover the products you produce. It also increases the chance you will find out if someone appears to have copied one of your ideas.
What should you do if you think someone has breached your patent rights?
1. Check you actually got the patent
Filing for patents takes time, and not all applications are successful. Perhaps you intended to file, but someone in your company forgot to send off the application. Maybe they did apply, but it got turned down, and they forgot to tell you. The more patents you apply for, the more crucial it is to have a system to keep track.
2. Check if the patent is still valid
Those filed before May 2015 will only last 14 years, and those filed after will last 15 years.
3. Consider if they coincidentally created something similar
They say great minds think alike. What is to stop someone else from having the same idea as you or one that is only slightly different?
Think about the number of images we are exposed to each day. If a person subconsciously took on information about your product and used it to create something, it is very different from them setting out to copy you.
4. Consider what, if anything, it is costing you
If a retired carpenter copied your idea for a handmade boat, producing just one to take their grandchildren out on the water, it would be hard to argue they are harming you. Things would be different if an industrial manufacturer took your idea and put it into outdoor stores across the country.
Protecting your ideas and products is important, yet you don’t want to waste time in unsuccessful patent lawsuits. Legal guidance will be crucial to examine your realistic options.