For businesses that operate online, maintaining a website that’s informative, easy to use, and free of any intellectual property right infringement is extremely important. After all, the value of many online businesses is affected by two main factors: turnover/profit, and the value of the intellectual property rights it owns or controls. There are a number of items you’ll want to keep in mind when designing and building your company’s website.
The vast majority of online businesses utilize third-party content and software for its creation and operations. This includes commonly used applications, as well as pictures and visuals from licensed providers. It’s highly important for businesses to thoroughly review usage rights and limitations that accompany such content in order to mitigate infringement risk. If you use any photos, videos, music, voice, artwork, or software that belongs to someone else, make sure you have written permission for use in the form of a license or consent agreement. Some of these content pieces may be free of charge, or you may have to purchase the files. This does not apply to any logos or branding items that are protected by registered trademark rights.
No matter who assists in your business’s web development, it’s important to understand the extent to which you own the IP. Some companies own parts of the IP, while some own every aspect of it. The key difference lies in the rights and provisions that are outlined in the agreement. Consider who legally owns the design of the website, and pay special attention to changes in ownership should any licenses expire. Online businesses should ensure that any agreement with a developer (whether in-house or a third party) contains suitable provisions to ensure that all intellectual property rights vest automatically in the business and, to the extent that they don’t, the business can require the intellectual property rights to be transferred to it. Equally important for online businesses to consider are the terms of their licenses regarding the website. If pieces of the site’s software are crucial to the operations of the business but they aren’t owned by the business, take extra care in ensuring that no provision allows termination of the license on a change of control of the business.
In most European countries, copyright is an automatic right, and registration is not a requirement for protection. However, there are some tools available in order for your work to be recorded. Some National Offices for Intellectual Property, provide a “means of proof” of priority date, that is, that you have created a given text, photograph or software in a determined time. Using such systems may prove to be useful, particularly when enforcing your rights against those trying to misappropriate your work. They provide you with evidence, essential in case of litigation.
Taking your business offline to online can expose you to new customers, new ideas, and new levels of success. The accessibility and reach the internet provides can make your company’s future seem limitless. At the same time, your brand faces more risks than usual in terms of intellectual property infringement. Be on the lookout for counterfeiters and brand abusers, and pay special attention to the details of any licensing agreements and contracts when using third-party contractors or companies. The success you’re hoping to attain for your brand is certainly possible — it’s just as important to ensure your brand is safe while doing so.