What are the risks of failing to enforce intellectual property rights?

Obtaining rights is only the first step in creating value from IP. Enforcing such rights is an important next step. What are the downsides of failing to enforce IP rights? From a business perspective, IP rights are of little value if they are not being respected by competitors in the market. Ongoing failure to enforce may solidify a reputation for unwillingness to assert rights, actually inviting competitors to capitalize on your innovation. From a legal perspective, undue delay in addressing a potential infringer may: (1) preclude certain types of relief from a court (e.g., preliminary injunction); and/or (2) strengthen the defenses of a potential infringer (e.g. laches, estoppel). Worse, in areas such as trademark law, use or misuse of your mark by third parties may actually result in loss of rights over time.

The decision of whether and how to enforce IP rights should be made with an eye towards a number of business and strategic objectives. Enforcement activities themselves may occur on several different levels, including: monitoring competition; negotiating, licensing, or entering into other business transactions; issuing cease and desist letters; and/or initiating administrative proceedings or litigation. Good legal counsel can assist you in evaluating the best means and timing for such activities, as well as the underlying substantive law.