Copyright disputes could soon outnumber patent infringement matters in the United States. This marks a significant shift, and stands poised to re-shape the IP litigation landscape.
There are many factors pushing the increase in copyright litigation. It is generally easier and less expensive to register a copyright than a patent or trademark. In addition, government and industry preoccupation with patent trolls has allowed copyright trolls to emerge somewhat unobserved. Their tactics are the same; they sue for infringement of copyrighted material and press for settlements from defendants unwilling or unable to endure a protracted court battle.
The rising influence of content on the Internet, especially video, is pushing the value of copyrights, and tactics to leverage that value. Disputes involving copyrighted video make up a significant number of total copyright suits. These matters range from fights between industry giants looking to offer similar products to content owners going after individual infringers.
With the rise in copyright litigation, it is likely many companies, especially those that use or produce content such as video, will find themselves either bringing an action or defending against a dispute.
The good news for both plaintiffs and defendants is that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be very effective in handling copyright disputes. Arbitration, for example, is typically far more cost-effective than copyright litigation, which can be very expensive. It also offers streamlined discovery and a far more efficient process. Mediation allows parties to work out creative win-win solutions that are not possible through litigation.
In the end, it is important for parties on both sides of a copyright dispute to fully assess the value and importance of a copyright to their bottom line, the strength of their respective cases and the resources—both time and money—they are willing to commit to litigation. After careful consideration, it might be that ADR is the favored choice of many litigants.