Sam Spade was the ultimate private detective. A hard-boiled PI, he didn’t mince words with suspects, cops or anyone else. And he always found the bad guy, of course. The problem: Sam was fictional.

In real life, private investigators are still around, often used to help attorneys protect intellectual property and business interests. A recent article on PIs described a case in which investigators helped a client obtain a a multimillion-dollar summary judgment against copyright infringers.

The case revolved around the Louis Vuitton, the purveyor of pricey and chic handbags, jackets, shirts and more. A meeting was arranged between a man eager to sell a tranche of knockoff Vuitton handbags and a “husband and wife” team of potential buyers. The seller showed off a catalogue of more than 500 knockoff items, with no idea that the “married couple” were in fact private investigators collecting evidence.

The news article about PIs points out that investigators aren’t needed in all infringement cases, of course, but that they can be invaluable to litigators protecting IP in certain situations.

An attorney-turned-investigator said that all IP cases begin with a review of public records, followed by, if needed, inquiries of sources.

He added that courts that have ruled on PI use in IP litigation have been clear that “in the context of undercover trademark investigations,” for instance, “the whole point of investigating is to be somewhat secretive and not entirely candid.”

Going undercover can help an investigator uncover dirty truths that suspects prefer to keep hidden.

If you believe your intellectual property has been infringed upon, speak with an attorney experienced in protecting IP and business interests. Contact Mazzarella & Mazzarella for more information.