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Am I entitled to financial compensation if my business marketing materials, concepts and ideas were plagiarized?

Columbus, OH |

I am a small business owner that created a consumer expo eight years ago. Another expo was created in a neighboring state and they plagiarized my marketing materials, ideas, concepts, etc. and are using them, verbatim, for their expo. Their event is in two weeks so a cease and desist would not mean anything at this point. Is it possible to ask for financial compensation based off of their sales due to the fact that their entire event is in essence, my event?

Side note: I have email correspondence, website screen shots, event program, etc. to strongly support my case.

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

Sounds like you have a good case for a copyright infringement lawsuit. The first step could be a cease and desist letter with a demand for compensation. See a lawyer who handles copyright infringement cases right away.

I always attempt to provide pertinent and relevant information. However, intellectual property law is complex and cannot be fully explained in a brief communication like this.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your response. The marketing materials, concepts and ideas are not copyrighted. Can I still pursue legal action based on plagiarism?

Norton Russell Townsley

Norton Russell Townsley

Posted

In the US, copyright rights arise upon creation. So any printed materials are already copyrighted. You might take the additional step of registering the copyrights in the US copyright office. But, again, see a lawyer who specializes in copyright infringement right away.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

You cannot generally sue for copyright infringement until you have registered your copyright since that is a jurisdictional prerequisite of the US District Courts, which courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over cases for copyright infringement, being that copyright law is Federal law. So you have a copyright, but without a registration you have no suit. Fortunately registration is cheap. Unfortunately you did not register and so you likely do not have an economically viable case. Bottom line, probably an expensive lesson in why you need to register and why you need to see a copyright lawyer.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Asker, be sure to ask is the "good case" is economically viable, unless you don't mind losing thousands of dollars when you "win."

Posted

The concept and ideas for an expo are generally not protected. Copyright, however, may protect the written marketing materials you created -- as long as you were the original author (with proof) and you can show that the materials in use by the new expo creators are substantially similar to (or, preferably, verbatim copies of) your original materials. You should consult with an experienced copyright litigator ASAP, and you may need to look outside Ohio. The Copyright Act has very strong remedies, but you need a thorough analysis from someone with experience before going any further.

This comment is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and is posted for informational purposes only. I am not your attorney; you are not my client. Both you and any other person reading this comment SHOULD NOT RELY UPON this comment. Regardless of the information provided in this comment, any reader of this comment should CONSULT AN ATTORNEY to get the legal advice you are seeking.

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Posted

Ideas, concepts, etc. are NOT protectible in the absence of a contract such as a non-disclosure agreement or implied contract for compensation. But the EXPRESSIONS of ideas, whether registered for copyright or not, may be protectible under copyright law if those expressions are novel enough, and the bar for hos much originality one needs to qualify for a copyright os quite low.

Here's your biggest problem: not having these expressions registered for copyright means you wouldn't be entitled to STATUTORY damages or your legal fees, just your ACTUAL damages. And what would those be? How much of their expo's income is based on "your" materials?

You need to see your own copyright litigator ASAP to explore the details of your situation.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

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Posted

It does sound like you have a valid copyright claim. You can possibly obtain an injunction to stop them from using any materials at the expo. The "compensation" you could potentially receive would be included in the damages you can recover in the lawsuit.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Be sure when assessing what to do here, that you ask your attorney what the legal fees, expenses and court costs of obtaining an injunction or recovery might be, and what provable actual economic damages might be and whether you can recover attorney fees (you likely cannot). In other words, watch out unless a pyrrhic victory is okay for you.

Posted

I doubt that your claims are worth very much. Our intellectual property laws do not protect ideas---they protect tangible inventions, or works of authorship, art, music, film, theater, painting, books etc. You might have some claims for copyright infringement, but you can't bring those claims unless you have registered your works with the U.S. copyright office---and nothing in your question indicates that did so. Since you did not register within three months of publication or your original works, you have given up your right to pursue statutory damages and attorneys fees, and you left with a weak case where you would seek profits attributable to the specific copyrighted works---but this would probably be only a small portion of the profits. Further, you might be able to claim lost profits, but you would have to show they are attributable to the specific copyrighted works rather than your general idea. In short, these cases seldom result in any significant financial recovery---but if you want to invest the resources as a matter of principle, please hire one of us. Our fees will probably be higher than the value of the case but justice might prevail,

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