Seven top tips for Intellectual Property and your website

One of the most important things for you when you first start your business is to build an effective online presence through your website. It’s your shop window to the world — and there are so many aspects to consider, but putting aside things like marketing, messaging, your proposition, reaching the right customers, persona’s, user experience journeys, feedback, data analytics, integration, privacy, data security etc etc. — we’ve restricted this blog to IP “Intellectual property” which covers some of these areas, but from an IP point of view.

  1. Finding your right domain name — it’s probably one of the first things you think about

- Should it refer to your business or your product, what will attract the most traffic?

- Does it use anyone else’s trade mark or is it similar to another’s trade mark? In which case this could be a problem.

Choose your domain name carefully and consider what suffix you require, .co.uk, .com or something else. You can always use several domain names and have them all linking into your site. Be aware of the scammers who will purchase similar domain names and offer them to you or threaten to set up rival sites using the domain names

2. Trade Marks

- In our last blog, we spoke about trade marks. Make sure you use your own trade marks and show that they are registered.

- Beware of using third parties trade marks, if you have the trade mark owner’s permission, make sure that you comply with any terms of the licence that you have with them (for example to acknowledge that you are using the marks under licence) and follow any brand guidelines required. It is an infringement of a registered trade mark to use it in the course of trade without the owner’s permission, so this is something to avoid if you do not want a threatening letter or worse, a nasty law suit.

3. Know what you own and don’t own — if you do not own it, check the terms of the licence that you have very carefully

- If someone else is developing your website then make sure that you have a contract with the developer in place setting out the rights that you have to the website and its content.

- Software ownership: if it is a developer (or even an online platform) that you are using, you are unlikely to own the software underlying the website as this will remain the property of the developer or provider of the software. Therefore the terms of the licence that you have with the developer and the access that you have to the code is very important.

- Moving platforms: if you want to take the website to another platform do you have the right to do this?

- Managing your content: how frequently do you need to do this? Find out what is the position on updating your website, can you do this or do you need to use the developer for this? (a developer can often slow the process and cost more money in the long run)

- If there is no contract and the developer retains the rights in the software, beware of being held to ransome on charges or otherwise having to go elsewhere and pay a third party to develop a new website for you!

The relationship between your business and website developer is an important one so make sure you are clear from the onset!

4. Integrations and licensing

- If you are going to use a database, e-commerce system (for example pay-pal or other payment system), search engine or other technical tools, you will need a licence from the owner.

- Read the licence to see who owns the system and what rights you are getting to use it and whether there are any termination provisions.

- Get the agreement in place before any design, custom work or installation of the site begins.

5. Photos, videos, music, voices or artwork

- If you want to use photos, videos, music, voices or artwork that belong to someone else you will also need permission and may have to pay a licence fee.

- If you take it from the internet, it is not necessarily in the public domain. Some of these materials can be provided free of charge but check the terms on which they are offered because they may not be free if they are used for business purposes.

- Be aware of photo agencies such as Getty Images who fiercely protect their materials. The last thing that a website owner wants is to be faced with a large bill for copyright infringement or in certain cases, having the website shut down until the copyright infringement has been removed.

- Protect yourself and your business by making sure that the materials come from a reliable source. If you are making the materials within your business (for example website copy), if they are made by an employee the business should be the owner of the copyright but check that the employees have terms in their contracts that provide that any copyright materials that they produce belong to the business (particularly if any of them are based abroad). If the employee is using music, memes or videos from third parties in their materials make sure you have the right to use them even if they only form a small part of the overall work.

- And protect the website content with appropriate copyright notices

6. Linking to other websites

If you are linking into any other website beware. Links are great e-commerce tools but in many countries there is no clear law on when and how you can use links. The prudent course is to obtain permission from the other site.

7. Your future business goals — some of your decisions may be determined by where you want to take your business in the future, so if your end goal is a sale (IP could be even more important) as it could affect the value of your business and sale. Even if this is not your end goal, think about how you want your business to operate and how the website can enable that.

Therefore make sure you have clearly understood all the elements involved in your design and build and know what you are signing up for!

Please contact the Trowers’ team for more information. We have also produced a series of fact sheets to help you, so click here to access our online resources.

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Trowers & Hamlins LLP has taken all reasonable precautions to ensure that information contained in this document is accurate, but stresses that the content is not intended to be legally comprehensive. Trowers & Hamlins LLP recommends that no action be taken on matters covered in this document without taking full legal advice.