In designing and building your website, the first thing to be aware of is whether you own the website presentation, content and every aspect of intellectual property (IP) in it.
Here are a few common IP mistakes or omissions that some of the launchers commit:
1. Infringing someone else’s trademark rights
When you select a brand name for your new website or product and spend money developing content and promotional materials around the brand, you must be aware that you don’t infringe someone’s else rights. Otherwise, you may get a letter from a company claiming you’re infringing its trademark rights and demanding that you stop all use of their name.
How to avoid it: Do some research. There is no one hundred per cent safe trademark, but running initial searches decrease the chances of an infringement. In running these searches, think about what you foresee your company doing in the next three years and make sure no one is occupying a similar space. If you don’t find someone else using a concerning mark, consult with a trademark attorney who has additional resources and expertise to identify and evaluate any risks.
2. Choosing a name that cannot be protected
You’ve selected and you’re using the brand name only to find that it cannot be registered, protected and/or enforced. If you haven’t chosen a protectable name, you might have difficulty stopping another company from using a confusingly similar trademark or claiming certain kinds of damages.
How to avoid it: After selecting your name, file to register it as a trademark. The trademark registration provides benefits that include a presumption of ownership and validity and the right to seek certain damages. It also acts as a deterrent to others adopting a similar name. Make sure your application covers all of the products and services you may offer within the next few years. Apply in other countries where you expect to operate, or through a single application at an european level.
3. Failing to coordinate domain name registration and adoption of a trademark
You have chosen a name, but when you go to register the corresponding domain name it’s already taken. If the owner learns that you are intending to launch a web business with the same name, the owner will likely assume you are desperate for it and will pay a large sum to get it. Or, under another scenario, you pay a lot of money for a domain name only to find out that the trademark is not available for your business.
How to avoid it: Coordinate the timing of your trademark filings and any disclosure of your intended name with your purchase of domain names to ensure that both are available and affordable in the countries where you plan to operate.
4. Using content that you don’t own
In designing your website, you use content from the internet. Now the owners of that content demand payment, because you used material without their permission.
How to avoid it: Make sure you have the right to use all the content on your website. Never copy and paste images or text from the internet without permission. Either develop your own content or obtain a license from the copyright owner. And don’t forget that showing faces or using names of people to promote your business may violate those persons’ rights of publicity. Make sure that you have adequate agreements in place with any third-party content providers.
If you are using a database, e-commerce system, or search engine or other technical Internet tools licensed to you by another company, check the terms in the license agreement to see who owns the system. Make sure that you do have a written agreement, and get it checked over by a lawyer before you sign it and before any design, custom work or installation of the site begins.
You will need written permission (also referred to as a license, a consent, or an agreement) to use any photos, videos, music, voices, art work, or software, etc. that belong to someone else. Just because you get material on the Internet does not mean that it is in the public domain. You may have to pay for permission to use various materials. In many countries, you will need to communicate with a collecting society or association of artists in order to get permission.
You will need to make sure (in case your country’s law or the law that applies to your business requires it) that you have permission to show trademarks owned by other companies that you refer to on your website.
Do not distribute or download any content or music on your website that does not belong to you unless you have obtained written permission from the owner to distribute it on the Internet.
Be careful in linking to other web sites. Links are a great e-commerce tool, and a useful service to your customers, but in many countries there is no clear law on when and how you can use links. The most careful practice is to seek and obtain permission from the other site before putting in the link.
Last but not least, the intellectual property of a company is considered as one of the essential parameters in the valuation process. The absence of intellectual property may result in lower valuation with respect to investment and acquisition opportunities. So it is essential for a startup to keep this in mind, as most startups look out for funding at some point in time.