By Giles Searby, Partner, specialising in intellectual property disputes, hlw Keeble Hawson
In an increasingly competitive digital landscape, savvy businesses are constantly harnessing new e-marketing and online tools in order to remain competitive. If you’re trading internationally, the internet is the most powerful channel of communication available and, when utilised fully, it can help companies grow at an unprecedented rate. However, whilst there are riches to be reaped, there are a number of potential threats and pitfalls too, which yuo need to protect your business against.
Your brand is the very essence of your business, and whilst the importance of ensuring it is fully protected should never be underestimated, neither does it need to be daunting.
So, how can you protect your brand and business online? Being aware of your rights is a good place to begin because once you know these, you will be able to identify any possible threats or infringements that may exist and take preventative measures to manage the situation. The following tips will help to guide you through the process:
1 – choose your domain name carefully
The right domain name is a powerful business tool. It drives online traffic and acts as the virtual face of a business or brand, so it is vital you use it to its full potential when setting up and developing a web site.
Domain names are offered on a first come first served basis and problems can arise as a result of this. Always do your research before you decide to buy a domain name. There may be competing companies with equally legitimate interest in the same domain name as you, and unless you can prove that they only bought the domain name in order to demand money from you, there is little you can do to secure it.
The Open to Export webinar on taking your website and digital market global has more tips about things to consider when setting up overseas.
2 – register a trademark
Register a trademark for your company name, brand name or logos. Using the ® sign is a signal to your competitors that a name is registered. The European and international trademark article provides further information about this.
3 – diarise your renewal dates
Having taken the time to register the trade mark and domain name, make sure these registrations are not allowed to lapse. If they do, then your domain will be turned off, an error message will appear on your page and the domain name will be available for sale. Similarly, if you do not renew your trade mark every ten years, then other people will be able to register it as their own.
4 – keep tabs
Carry out regular online checks against your registered trade mark or company name to ascertain whether either is being misused by your competitors.
5 – make sure you own the copyrights to your web site
It is a common misconception that a business automatically owns the copyright to the content on their web site. If you paid a designer to build your site, ownership usually remains with them. If possible, have the copyright assigned to you so that you can amend or develop the website as necessary. Read the copyright abroad article for more information about this.
6 – place copyright notices on your web site and on any photographs on your site
Copyright generally comes into being without registration or any other formal requirements – it exists once an original work has been created.
7 – ensure all third party content is attributed or approved
Make sure that you have the right to use any images, graphics or text on your web site. If you have a licence to use these for limited purposes, make sure you know the limits of the licence.
8 – no plagiarism!
Make sure that the content you create for your site is original and not copied in any way from another web site.
9 – ensure your web site has clear disclosures and policies
10 – protect your data
Take steps to protect your data and sensitive information. This is especially relevant if key employees terminate their employment – you must ensure they are not able to continue using such information.
For many businesses, operating online is fundamental for growth and a web presence is instrumental to a marketing strategy. Monitoring, maintaining and ultimately, protecting your online brand is crucial if your business is to succeed.