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Bryan E. Kuhn
Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

Some copyright cases may be barred by earlier patent claims

Intellectual property can be particularly important for Colorado companies in the tech field. Unique developments in software and other technology can be patented or copyrighted in order to prevent them from being freely exploited by competitors in the market. If these protections are not obtained, companies may find themselves quickly eclipsed by larger firms, even if their technology is new and innovative. Lawsuits can be an important way of protecting these rights if a company discovers that another developer is misusing their work in a way contrary to law.

At the same time, it can be important for companies pursuing intellectual property claims to ensure they are thorough in their initial filings. One company, Media Rights Technologies (MRT), was barred from moving forward with DMCA and breach of copyright claims against Microsoft because it earlier filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the company that failed. It did not make any of the available copyright claims in the original lawsuit. Therefore, the district court hearing the case threw out most of those allegations, saying that they were barred by claim preclusion. Preclusion prevents parties from going back to court repeatedly over the same underlying facts.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit allowed some of the company’s copyright infringement claims to move forward despite the preclusion problem. The court noted that each infringement of a copyright is an independent violation. Therefore, even though the basic facts existed at the time of the patent case, MRT could still sue Microsoft for allegedly infringing software sold after that date.

Developing a clear strategy to protect patents, trademarks and copyrights against infringement can be critical for any business. An intellectual property attorney can help to ensure that the relevant filings are made and work to take necessary legal action to stop infringement.

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