intellectual property theft

White Collar Criminal Offense: What is Intellectual Property Theft

White collar crime covers a number of facets and different types of crimes. One of those crimes is intellectual property, which is stealing or using someone else’s property and work without permission. This can cover a broad array of crimes and properties, from creative or commercial innovation to any type of property with economic value.

Theft of intellectual property happens when someone knowingly uses, takes, steals, or misappropriate any property that falls under the protection of laws surrounding intellectual property. What are the most common types of intellectual property theft?



-Literary Works




These types of property are protected by patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Businesses across the United States lose billions in intellectual property theft every year. If you’re the victim of intellectual property theft, you need to find an attorney that understands the nuances of white collar crime law and can provide the best representation.

In today’s digitally connected age, intellectual property theft has become a bigger issue and a common form of white-collar federal crime. Streaming services, piracy, and file-sharing networks have aided in the ease of this type of theft to occur. If you’ve become a victim of intellectual theft, there are a few paths for you to consider.

Sometimes, the person who has committed the theft has done so unknowingly, and they will cease to stop using the property or agree to pay for any misuse of the property. If this doesn’t happen, then legal action will be required. The thief in this instance benefits from work without producing the work, whether that’s a financial benefit or other types of benefit.

What types of intellectual property theft are there?

  1. Copyrighted Material
    This is material that is fixed in a medium and is an expression of creativity. Copyrighted material includes software, books, photographs, paintings, and poems.
  2. Patented Material
    A patent is given to an individual after a new invention. Whether a utility patent, design patent, or plant patent, these fall under intellectual property.
  3. Trademarked Material
    There are a limited number of items that can be trademarked. Designs that identify as a brand, words, symbols, and phrases are used to identify as a trademark.
  4. Trade Secret
    A piece of information that is not generally known to the public or competitors, but valuable to a business. These secrets are kept confidential, though if exposed can result in severe damages to a business.

In addition to the main types of intellectual property theft, there are more crimes that occur that fall under this label.

  • Counterfeiting (trademarks, labeling, drug trafficking)
  • Copyright Infringement & Pre-Release Copyright Infringement (Piracy)
  • Recording Movies in Theaters (Camcording)
  • Cyberstalking

To form a defense for intellectual property theft, an attorney can attempt to prove lack of intent that shows the accused did not intend or knowingly steal the property for personal gain. Or they could try to prove ownership rights where the accuser doesn’t have ownership rights of the property and therefore cannot sue. Another form of defense is to prove fair use under the fair use clause where the use of intellectual property is permitted for educational purposes.

If you’re caught stealing intellectual property, you face a potential of years in prison and extensive fines with a permanent criminal record. There are severe long-term consequences which could prohibit someone from attaining a job, an apartment, and more. The laws of intellectual property are complex and there are strict penalties for violations of these laws.

Contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney when you’ve been accused of intellectual property theft or have been the victim of theft. Our attorneys have a track record of successfully representing these white collar crimes.