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Understanding Statutory Damages

While some people sue for the principle of having their day in court, many do so because they have been harmed in some way and deserve compensation for that harm. That compensation is known as the damages. Ordinarily, judges or juries award damages based on the actual, quantifiable harms that someone has suffered. However, that is not always feasible.

For instance, harm arising from violations involving copyrights or trademarks is difficult to quantify exactly. In these sorts of circumstances, the law may provide an alternate remedy “statutory damages.” These are a range of damages set by a governing statute that judges or juries can award to the plaintiff in lieu of actually quantifiable damages.

How Damages Normally Work

Courts ordinarily award damages based on evidence of harms, economic or otherwise. For example, take a contract lawsuit. Suppose, a supplier had promised a manufacturer 1,000 cogs at $10 a cog for a total price of $10,000. If the supplier fails to deliver, then the manufacturer has to buy the cogs on the open market in order fill their customer’s orders on time. Since it is a short notice order, the manufacturer ends up paying $15 a cog, a total price of $15,000. The manufacturer can then sue the supplier for the $5,000 difference in the price, which was the actual harm that the supplier suffered because of the breach.

What Statutory Damages Change

That example was a fairly simple case of calculating damages. It was simple enough to determine the harm because it was just a price difference. Now imagine that rather than a breach of contract, it is a copyright infringement. It becomes much more difficult to actually determine the damages. Quantifying the lost customers of the art, reputational harms if the copy is inferior, and the injustice that arises from the copying is not as simple as reading a price list.

That is where statutory damages come in. In the case of copyright, a party may choose to take statutory damages instead of actual damages in some circumstances. These damages range from $750 to $30,000 ordinarily, and increase to as much as $150,000 in the case of willful infringement.

However, those are still a large range of dollar amounts, and the court does still attempt to place the damage amount fairly. There are usually factors guiding a court’s decision, but those factors tend to change depending on the type of lawsuit and the court. For instance, a Florida court looking at copyright infringement considered:

  • The expenses saved by the defendant;
  • Any profits made by the defendant;
  • Revenue lost by the plaintiff;
  • Whether the infringement was willful;
  • Whether the damages awarded will prevent the unjust enrichment of the defendant;
  • Whether the damages will adequately compensate the defendant for their injury; and
  • Whether the damages will deter future infringement.

If you have recently been the victim of copyright or trademark infringement and want to know more about your rights, contact a Florida business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today. Our firm is here to help you fight for the full and fair compensation that your deserve.

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