What happens if a copyright, trademark, or patent is violated?

By Vihan Singh3 min read · Posted Dec 23, 2022


People who distribute pirated music, videos, movies or shows on the internet or in-person are most of the time brought down and punished. But what laws did they break? And why are they being punished? Read on to find out why.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is rights given to individuals and companies for their inventions or ideas. There are various types of intellectual property; the three most common ones are listed below:

  • Copyright
  • Trademark
  • Patent

What is a Copyright?

Copyright certifies an individual's work and prevents others from copying or stealing it. An individual/company can request copyright on their products/works.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark prevents other companies or individuals from using the company's product or designs. Companies use a trademark to distinguish themselves from other brands. Slogans and logos are trademarks. Examples of well-known trademarks are the Apple logo or the “Have a break, have a kit-kat” slogan.

What is a Patent?

A patent protects an individual’s or company's idea/invention from being stolen and used.

To learn more about these topics, you can read our “Copyright v.s. Patent v.s. Trademark” article.

How is a copyright, trademark, or patent violated?

All three are different types of intellectual property. Still, all of them can be broken the same way; when a person or company steals another protected idea or invention for their profit, or an individual or company illegally distributes replications or counterfeit goods protected by intellectual property.

What if a Copyright is Violated?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) usually oversees copyright violations. They are constantly monitoring pirating sites and attempting to shut them down. They occasionally catch copyright violators (also known as “Pirates”) and punish them with heavy fines or jail time.

To deter copyright infringement, the FBI is responsible for the warnings before a movie, saying, “Distribution of this movie is illegal and is punishable by fine or jail.” Music recordings and video games carry a similar message on their packaging.

What if a Trademark is Violated?

Trademark violations are the most common. There is a multi-billion dollar industry of counterfeit goods.

To prevent losses and to protect their names, private companies can sue individuals or companies for using their trademarked ideas or products for their benefit. If the company that sued wins, it can demand monetary penalties and order the other company or individual to stop using their trademarked goods and services.

What if a Patent is Violated?

Suppose you steal someone’s patented idea or invention and start making profits without the patent holder's consent or permission. In that case, you can infringe/violate a patent holder's rights and be forced by the court to pay heavy fines, jail time, or even declare bankruptcy.


Violating a copyright, patent, or trademark is ethically and legally wrong. Violators can face lawsuits that are very costly and time-consuming.

If you want to listen to your favorite music, consider getting a subscription to a certified music vendor (ex: Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) If you're going to watch your favorite movies and shows, you can look into getting a subscription to a licensed video vendor (ex: Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, etc.)

These punishments and fines are set to prevent others from stealing a company's or individual's ideas/inventions and profiting from them.

“When you have the wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.” -Criss Jami, Killosophy.


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