A lot of our clients ask us about the trademarks and copyrights associated with their business on the Internet and, especially, their websites and logos. While specifics differ from business to business, object to object and country to country, we decided to do round up the most commonly asked questions in a general introductory article on this topic to give you a place to start at.
What are trademarks and copyrights?
A trademark is your brand- legally registered or established by use. It can be a symbol, word or combination of words that represent your company and product. Your trademark can include your logo (which is a visual/symbol) but it can be other things as well. Your trademark protects your brand’s identity.
A copyright is also the ownership of intellectual property but just of another kind. Assets protected by copyrights are the work of an artist or author- such as photos, graphics and writings. A copyright grants the creator/owner legal rights over the ownership and use of the authored work- and provides protection against infringement during legal action.
Your business name and logo can be protected by trademark while the original photos and writings on your website can be protected by copyright.
Can I get my website copyrighted?
You can get your business name and, in most cases, your logo protected under a trademark. The original authorship on your website- such as writings, artworks and photographs that are rightfully yours- can be protected with copyright but mere facts and ideas can not. If your business is registered in the US, use these instructions to obtain copyright.
You can not get your domain name copyrighted but your logo can be protected under copyright or trademark if it contains sufficient authorship.
How can I obtain a copyright?
As the original creator or owner (if the creator has legally transferred you the rights) of your website, you automatically hold the rights to your visuals and corporate identity (such as your logo and trademark). The general rule for copyright is that you need to have sufficient authorship in a work to hold the rights to it. So for instance, any writing or graphics on your website need to be created by you or the original creator must have legally transferred the rights to you (as in the case of ‘ghostwriting’).
However, in order to seek legal action in case of an infringement, you will need to have your copyright registered with the governing copyright office in your country.
Where can I get more information?
The US Copyright Office has a very comprehensive FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) section on copyrights that can answer most of your specific queries on what constitutes as a copyright in the USA.
Contact the US Patent and Trademark Office for trademark protection and information.
How can I protect the content on my website?
- Make sure you display a copyright symbol/notice on your website so that visitors know that they are not allowed to copy/reproduce/use your content without your consent.
- Use websites like copyscape.com to check for duplicates of your content on the Internet.
- If someone has copied your content, have your lawyer send them a cease-and-desist letter.
- Get the appropriate copyrights registered at your governing copyright office.
- Password protect and properly secure information on your server that you don’t want to be publicly available.