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SeekingToRenderAid is correct: you will eventually have to bite the bullet and hire a lawyer to handle this for you. The law involving intellectual property and identity theft are simply too complex for us to be able to give you a thorough course on this board for everything that is involved in your case. That said, there are ways to get good legal help on the cheap: the best way for an IP issue is to go to a law school in Illinois AND California and see if you can become a client of their legal clinic. Law schools (especially those accredited by the American Bar
Association) invariably run a class for second- and third-year students where the students, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, actually represent clients in matters such as yours. You'll need a law school that handles IP matters in their clinical program, which means you may need to call around; not all do. Another option is to find an attorney who will handle your matter on contingency; you can search the internet for "IP Contingency"; that brings up, as the first organic listing, the group of which I am thinking (the rules governing my answer to you on JA prevent me from making a direct referral).
That said, you can indeed get yourself started. You can send a cease-and-desist letter ("C&D") yourself (do a search on the internet to get a sample). This is just a letter sent to your defendant(s) telling he/she/it/them to stop what they are doing or face legal consequences. C&Ds are often ignored, which means that you would then need to file a civil lawsuit against your defendants in a court in a geographical location where they — not you — are found. That is, if you are in Illinois and California but your defendant is in New York, you need to file your case in New York. If you file the case for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, you can file it in federal court as a "federal question." Go to the federal courts' administrative website, called PACER and found at http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/
, and sign up for a free account. You'll have to provide a credit card to pay for documents you view/download (at $0.08/page). Then call the clerk of the court where you plan to file the action and ask how to get ahold of a sample Complaint.
Lawsuits are filed online in most federal courts (there are a couple of (very annoying) exceptions) and you'll need a password XXXXX get in to see the documents. You might be able to get the clerk to send you one or two samples though. Follow the format (not the words; the format) EXACTLY. Talk to the clerk about how to file your complaint pro se (without a lawyer) and follow those instructions EXACTLY. Have process served on your defendant(s) (the process server cannot be a party to the action and must be over 18 years of age; this says that you cannot serve process in your own matter but your over-18 friend or spouse or child can if they are not named as parties in the action; or, best, XXXXX XXXXX hire a professional process server). Personal service — hand delivery — is best, XXXXX XXXXX are other ways in which process can be served. Your defendant(s) have 20 or 25 days (depending on the method of service) to file an Answer with the Court.
You now have a bouncing baby lawsuit that is entering the discovery phase. Before you go into discovery, though, you should file a motion with the court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to get the problem stopped immediately. The TRO is generally good through the duration of the case at the trial level; to get the judge to issue one, you must show that you are suffering damage that cannot be remedied with only money, that the defendants' actions continue to damage you, and that you are likely to win at trial. That's done in a hearing before the judge (or, in the case of a federal suit, probably before the magistrate judge).
None of this stuff is free; the federal courts charge money — in the $hundreds — to accept filings of complaints and of motions. You can ask to proceed in forma pauperis (as a pauper, fee-free) if your income is below the level set by that particular court. Again, ask the court clerk about how to do that.
Make friends with the office of the clerk of the court; these people cannot answer legal questions or provide legal advice, but they are The Experts in the procedures of their court and they will answer procedural questions.
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