What is Intellectual Property Theft?
Intellectual property theft means stealing any form of intellectual property, including music, inventions, artwork, literary works, design, and symbols that are protected by patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Intellectual property theft costs U.S. business billions of dollars every year, so it’s no wonder the FBI has made investigating and preventing it a priority.
Ways Intellectual Property Can Be Stolen
In the digital era, intellectual property theft is becoming an even greater issue and a common form of white-collar federal crime. Piracy, file-sharing networks, and streaming services are making it easier for intellectual property theft to occur. There are many different types of intellectual property theft:
- Counterfeit Trademarks
- Counterfeit Drug Trafficking
- Counterfeit Labeling
- Criminal Copyright Infringement
- Pre-Release Criminal Copyright Infringement
- Recording Movies in Theatres
- Theft of Trade Secrets
Investigations into Theft of Intellectual Property
The United States’ National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center works to curb global intellectual property theft by leveraging the efforts of 21 partner agencies. Seventeen key federal agencies – including the FBI, working with Interpol, Europol, and the governments of Canada and Mexico – to investigate the theft of intellectual property.
When investigators zero in on a target, the investigation may go on for months or even years. They will have extensive evidence that your federal defense attorney will need to counter with expert witnesses.
Consequences of Intellectual Property Theft
The penalties for stealing intellectual property varies depending on the severity of the crime. Generally speaking, most intellectual property theft penalties start from a fine of $250,000 and/or 3 years in prison and can range to a $5 million fine and/or 20 years in prison. Refer to the list below outlining the consequences for different types of intellectual property theft:
- Counterfeit Trademarks – You face up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine if you are convicted of intentionally using a counterfeit mark and you traffic in goods and services.
- Counterfeit Drug Trafficking – You face up to 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine if you are convicted of counterfeit drug trafficking or trafficking in certain types of counterfeit military goods or services.
- Counterfeit Labeling – Under U.S. Code, Title 18, you face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if you are convicted of trafficking in counterfeit labeling. These could be labels that are normally affixed to visual art, movies, music, software, books, and other related works. It also applies to counterfeit documentation or packaging for these types of mediums.
- Criminal Copyright Infringement – Copyright infringement is becoming a more common federal crime. It is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. To be convicted of criminal copyright infringement, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you willfully reproduced and/or distributed at least ten copies of one or more works that were copyrighted. They must also show that these copies had a total retail value of more than $2,500, and it must have occurred within a 180-day window. The penalty increases to ten years in prison if you acted for commercial advantage or private financial gain. Criminal copyright infringement can also be charged as a misdemeanor if the total retail value exceeds $1,000 but is less than $2,500.
- Pre-Release Criminal Copyright Infringement – Whether it’s music, movies, or software, there’s often a lot of pre-release excitement to build enthusiasm. If you are found to be engaging in pre-release piracy, you can be convicted of a felony. The penalties include up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000 under Titles 17 and 18 of the U.S. Code. The prison time increases to up to eight years if you are found to be acting for commercial advantage or private financial gain.
- Recording Movies in Theatres – Frequently known as “camcording,” you can be charged with a federal felony for recording movies playing in public theaters. The penalties include up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- Theft of Trade Secrets – Under the Economic Espionage Act, you can be charged with the theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government, institution, or agent. The penalties are harsh, and you face up to 15 years in prison and a $5 million fine if convicted under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 1831. You can also be charged under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 1832 if you are found to be engaging in the theft of trade secrets to benefit anyone other than the owner. This is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Caught Stealing Intellectual Property?
If convicted, you face years in prison and extensive fines in addition to a permanent criminal record. The long-term consequences are severe, as many people with criminal records – especially federal convictions – find it difficult to keep or find jobs, apartments, and much more. Contact a federal attorney today at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys.