The reach and impact of the internet is well known and it provides a must-have medium to advertise, promote, and conduct business. Setting up and maintaining your website may seem like a relatively straightforward process, but just under the surface lie a variety of legal issues and even potential minefields that should be taken into consideration in order to protect your business online.
- Knowing what content, graphics, and other materials should be protected on your website.
- Making proper use of trademark symbols and other intellectual property notations in a way that provides protection and limits risk.
It is important to review your website to make sure it is in full legal compliance – for your protection and to mitigate any legal risk associated with business that you conduct on your site. Here is a look at some critical issues to get you started:
Content, Graphics and IP Protection:
- Have you properly identified and protected any copyrightable content and trademarks?
- Have you properly identified company affiliations, sponsorships, etc.?
- Have you made sure to exclude any trade secret information?
- Have you included import and/or export compliance guidance?
- Have you checked to ensure you do not have any potential infringement issues?
- Do you regularly police your competitors website to insure that someone is not trying to profit off of your content or the look-and-feel of your website?
- Do you have adequate disclaimers for changing content and reliance by consumers?
- Do you have adequate provisions for legal jurisdiction, venue, and choice of law based on where you conduct business?
- Is your Privacy Statement consistent with U.S. and international laws, especially when it comes to compiling data on consumers? Some examples may include the age of your consumers, information you collect, how you collect it, and how you use or share the collected information, consumer opt out options.
Usage of Intellectual Property on Your Website:
- Have you properly referenced your patents according to the Virtual Marking statute under U.S. Patent Law?
- Are you using your trademarks properly? Prominent, distinct, used as an adjective or adverb – NOT used as a noun or verb.
- Do you have the proper public legal notifications in place for your intellectual property? A copyright notice that comports to U.S. and international law; trademark symbols, patent pending vs. issued patents, etc.
- Are you following the proper confidentiality guidelines for new technology? Be careful not to describe new technology in too much detail before seeking intellectual property protection.
- Have you applied or are you in the process of legally protecting your intellectual property BEFORE publication of the same?
Your answers to these questions provide a strong starting point for protecting your intellectual property on your website. This is solely a general summary of complex intellectual property issues and does not constitute legal guidance. If you have specific legal questions for your business, contact us to talk with an experienced attorney. We can do a quick, preliminary review of your website and provide you with action items to bring your website into legal compliance for your protection and to mitigate any legal risk associated with any business you conduct online.
Richard C. Vershave is an intellectual property law attorney at Fraser Trebilcock. He focuses his practice on trademark matters, reexamination (post-grant) proceedings, accelerated patent examination proceedings, due diligence evaluations, clearance studies, infringement, invalidity and patentability opinions, confidentiality agreements and strategic intellectual property portfolio development and management. Richard can be reached at 517.377.0864 or firstname.lastname@example.org.