The Internet is a fantastic tool for allowing the world to learn about your company and its products and services — but the Internet's ease of use also allows others to take pictures and descriptions from your site and use them in ways you never intended. A digital image depicting a new product might end up decorating an eBay auction, for example, or text describing your product's benefits might end up on a competitor's site touting a similar product. By taking precautions with your site's intellectual property, you can:
- Confidently provide information about your products and services.
- Create a company brand.
- Prevent others from misrepresenting your company.
- Keep competitors honest.
Tell visitors what's off limitsThe Internet has inspired a loosey-goosey approach to sharing in which some people feel they can take anything they see and reuse it however they wish.
Search for your copyIf you use distinctive phrases to describe your company or your products, make sure that no one else appropriates these phrases for their own business use.
Know where your name appearsIn addition to special phrases unique to your business, you might want to track how others are using the business name itself.
Mark your imagesImages from your Web site can easily be saved onto a person's computer and used in ways that you don't appreciate.
Traffic in trademarksFor stronger legal protection of a particular word, phrase, image or symbol (or combination of these items) associated with your business, apply for a trademark.
Trademark Electronic Application System.
Register your writingIn the U.S., all original writing on your Web site (as with all writing) is automatically copyrighted, but not everyone knows that.
U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.
- Instead of using digital images, you can use Flash to create pictures that are more difficult to copy. Keep in mind, though, that Flash will make your site inaccessible to some people.
- If you're selling digital-based products and are worried about illegal copying, make it easy for customers to try your product so they're encouraged to buy rather than copy.
- Patent, trademark and copyright law differs in other countries, so consult a lawyer before trying to sue a non-American copier.