What to do after being contacted by a troll
Every business owner faces challenges. When these challenges involve intellectual property and protecting something that you invented or designed yourself, the stakes of finding a resolution can be both professional and personal. Because of this, it can be particularly upsetting to be contacted by a trademark or patent troll. These are parties that acquire IP protections not to use the property but to prevent others from using them without paying. If someone contacts you and threatens to sue you for infringement, you may be dealing with a trademark or patent troll. Below are some tips for how to respond. Determine if it’s a troll Businesses can receive cease and desist letters from legitimate competitors or other parties that own intellectual property. In general, owners deal with these claims differently than threats from trolls. As such, you must first determine who is making the request. Look up the name of the entity to see what (if anything) it makes. Some trolls are well known as such. In the letter, pay attention to abusive language as well as exaggerated assertions of protection. Legitimate demand letters will typically be specific to the parties involved. If the letter you receive seems like a template letter with your company name plugged in, it could signify that someone is casting a suspiciously wide net. If there are red flags, you could be dealing with a troll. Consider your options Undoubtedly, it can be frightening to receive a letter from someone claiming you are infringing on their IP rights and threatening to sue, especially if you run a small business. However, know that you have options. Depending on your product and your business, you can pay the owner to settle, contest their claims or refuse to respond. Some parties choose to change a product so that it does not infringe on the patent or trademark rights. Though, this can be expensive and tedious, especially if your brand is well-established. Whatever option you ultimately pursue, you should not rush into anything, as doing so can have costly consequences. Instead, take the time to do some research and talk to an attorney to learn more about the claim and your legal options.