When people talk about “property rights”, a common quote is “Possession is nine tenths of the law”. For example, little Johnny is playing in the dirt with a red dump truck. Charlie wants to play with the dump truck, so he tells the teacher that the dump truck belongs to him and he wants it back. The teacher replies, “Johnny brought that dump truck from home, and he’s playing with it. It’s his property, and it belongs to him.” Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
But what happens when the item at the center of a property dispute is not something you can put your hands on, but is a creation of the mind? Intellectual property, things like inventions, novels, plays, music, drawings, trademarks, sculptures, and photographs can have more value than say, a dump truck. This is where intellectual property right laws come into play. But how do you place value on something that is intangible?
From a legal standpoint, intellectual property is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyrights, and infringement suits involving intellectual property are popping up in unlikely places these days. Lawsuits that once filled dockets in California and New York are now commonplace in East Texas, an area that is becoming known as a haven these types of property right law suits.
In intellectual property litigation, the potential for large settlement payments is huge, particularly when a tough judge is presiding. That’s why in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which is known for favoring plaintiffs and for expertise in patent and intellectual property right suits, defendants often choose to cut their losses and settle rather than fight.