Patent litigation is the fundamental tool for protecting the intellectual property rights tied up in many products, processes, and systems. If you're not sure whether you're facing a situation that calls for a patent lawyer, consider how your circumstances compare to these four general scenarios.

Knock-Offs Are Appearing

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it doesn't necessarily pay to allow imitators if you have a patent. Whenever you see a possible knock-off of your patented idea, you should have a lawyer review the details. If possible, try to acquire a version of the knock-off so your attorney can examine it up close.

Also, never assume a violator's use of foreign production puts them beyond the arm of the law. They may have interests in jurisdictions where you can sue and possibly recover compensation. Similarly, international treaties may provide avenues for pursuing damages. Your patent lawyer may have to be a bit creative, but you should never concede to a violator without first exploring the potential options.

Outsiders Want to Discuss Licensing without Signing

Unscrupulous companies sometimes discuss licensing with patent holders so they can get a closer look at key details. If outsiders express a lot of interest in licensing your patent without signing deals, you should be suspicious. Monitor what they do next. Watch their social media feeds, websites, and marketing materials to see if anything familiar pops up.

Similarly, make sure you're protecting your discussion process as much as your patented design. Have an attorney draft non-disclosure and non-compete agreements so you will have legal options if some tries to use the negotiation process to gather information and violate a patent.

Former Employees Are Moving into the Same Sector

One of the biggest possible threats to a patent may come from a former employee. If you see evidence of an ex-employee starting a business similar to yours, keep an eye on what they're doing. The same applies if a former employee goes to work for a competing company. If their work seems to overlap with your patents, you may need to monitor the situation. Should they or their employer make the mistake of stepping on your patent rights, be prepared to litigate.

Suppliers or Manufacturers Suddenly Lose Interest

Especially if a party involved for a long time in your supply or manufacturing chain suddenly loses interest, you may want to keep tabs on what they're doing. Some parties may decide to cut their customers out by becoming competitors. That is fine if they don't violate your rights, but consider patent litigation if they abuse their knowledge.

Contact a lawyer who handles patent litigation for more information.