Tag Archives: intellectual property

Intellectual Property: Protecting your Website Content

Copyright protection for website contentGoogle regularly update their search algorithms and ranking strategies to try and weed out spam and identify high quality sites. Starting in early 2011 with their Panda update and rolling through 2012 with Penguin one of Google’s big targets has been duplicate content. There has been a problem for a while with spammers ‘scraping’ content from legitimate websites in order to quickly build spam or scam sites. There have also been issues around website owners plagiarising all or parts of the content from other sites rather than writing their own text. It is something we have experienced with our own blog, we have found a number of other websites who have lifted our articles wholesale and are passing them off as their own work.

From the point of view of the end user this is annoying. It means that you are going to find lots of websites with the same information on them. What Google wants to see is lots of websites with unique information presented in different and interesting ways. Using its Panda and Penguin updates Google has been steadily trying to identify websites which host duplicate or scraped content and has been pushing them towards the back of the search results.

Although Google tries to establish which website is original and which website has copies content before punishing them it does this automatically and not always reliably. If someone is copying your website content it can have a negative impact on your own website. This can be in terms of visibility in search and in how useful people find your site and the likelihood that they will return.

Luckily there are already rules in place to help you to protect your website content. Anything that you write and publish on your website is automatically protected by Copyright. It becomes a part of your, or your company’s, intellectual property. When you publish new content on your website you need to be able to show the date of publication. If you are using a content management system like the one found in our CMS websites then this will be done automatically.

If you spot a website which has copied your content then you can challenge them for infringing your copyright. The Intellectual Property Office, who look after intellectual property in the UK, recommend that your first step is to contact the people who have infringed your copyright and try to reach an amicable solution. This could include asking them to take your content down or to credit your work. You can also ask them for a payment for the use of your work. If this fails then you can take them to court in order to force them to take your content down and to potentially pay you damages.

Although there are some commercial tools out there which can help you spot duplicate content one of the simplest ways is to conduct test searches. Simply pick a sentence from your website and put it in quotation marks (“”) then do a search. With luck the only site that will come up is your own. If any other websites come up you can have a read of their content and see if it matches what you have written.

Your website is the first point of contact many people are going to have with your business and one of your most important marketing tools. Making sure it has unique content and performs as well as possible in the search engines can make a big difference to your bottom line. Establishing and enforcing your copyright is a key part of doing this.

How Healthy is your Company’s Intellectual Property?

Small Busiess Intellectual PropertyIntellectual property is often an area which small businesses overlook, either because they think it is not relevant to them, or because it is surrounded in complex rules. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have been making a lot of effort recently to educate small businesses about intellectual property and have recently launched an online Intellectual Property Health Check Service.

There are four main types of Intellectual Property, all of which can be used by start-ups and small businesses. These are:

Patents: Getting a patent can be quite a slow and costly process. It can take two to three years and will normally cost £200 to £300 plus the costs of a specialist trade mark lawyer. You can only patent something if it is an invention which no-one else has seen before and if it can have an industrial use. It is difficult to patent anything which is not a physical object. So, for instance, scientific theories, business methods or computer programmes are not normally patentable. The major benefit of having a patent is that you can stop rival businesses from copying your idea or you can licence it to them for a profit.

Trade marks: It is much more common for a new start-up business to apply for a trademark. Trademarks cover the name and logo of a business, effectively covering it’s brand image. It is the only way in the UK to get real protection for a business name. Sole traders who make up the majority of businesses in the UK do not have to register their business name. Forming a limited company stops anyone else from registering a company with the same name but it does not stop them from trading under a name identical to an established business. A trademark means you have an absolute right to a business name. Trade marks have to be applies for in one or more of the 47 categories used by the Intellectual Property Office. You have to pay a separate fee for each category or class of trade mark which normally costs in the region of a few hundred pounds.

Designs: Design protection is probably the least known form of Intellectual Property protection. It covers the appearance of a products. This includes the visual look of the products and the materials it is made from. There are some automatic rights assigned to a design and it may overlap with copyright protection. However the most secure way to protect a design is to register it with the Intellectual Property Office. This normally costs £60 and the protection can last for up to 25 years. Having a registered deign is a bit like having a patent, you can use it to stop people copying your ideas or as the basis for a licensing agreement.

Copyright: Copyright is an automatic form of Intellectual Property Protection. It covers written material and recordings. It starts from the point where something is published and normally lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. Copyright is useful for businesses as it can cover sales materials, website contents, computer programmes, training materials and anything else that is written or recorded. It is normally used to stop anyone else from copying your work but can also be used as the basis for licensing agreements. Because it is an automatic right you do not need to register anything. It is sensible though to establish the date when a work was created. This can either be done by publishing it or by lodging it with a solicitor or sending yourself a copy by recorded delivery.

While it may not be at the top of your list when starting a new business getting your Intellectual Property sorted can be very valuable down the road. It can stop people trying to copy or take advantage of your good name and it can protect your products and ideas. Properly documented Intellectual Property can also be classed as an asset in the company accounts and can become a revenue stream in its own right.

If you want to find out more about how your business can use Intellectual Property you can speak to one of our business consultants. We can also conduct trade marks searches for you and help you with the trademark registration process.

Similar Domain Names: How to Avoid Breaking the Rules

Domain Name Rules We frequently hear of cases where a start-up company has bought a domain name only to find that a very similar name is already in use. The start-ups usually want to know if they can get away with using their new domain name. As with a lot of issues around intellectual property this is a bit of a grey area that depends on the exact circumstances. One thing that applies to all domain names though, is that just because you have registered a name does not mean you have the right to use it.

Passing off

If you have bought a domain name and then find out someone else has a very similar name already registered you need to stop and do some research. There is a long established legal principle in the UK called “passing off”. Originally this applied to business names and trademarks but a series of court cases over the last twenty years have extended its use to domain names.

Passing off is the principle that business names are protected, even if they are not registered.  So people cannot copy your business name, nor can they set up a business with a similar name if customers might be confused. To determine if passing off applies courts will normally look at whether one of the companies was already well established at the time of the conflict, whether the two businesses are operating in the same industry, in the same geographical area and targeting the same customers. As this is based on case law the exact ruling will vary based on the circumstances so, for instance, in one case the geographical area might not be relevant. In another case the colour of shop signs might be crucial. The basic principle is though, if a potential customer could easily confuse the businesses, the newer of the two will have to change its name. (To test this out the court might use the “moron in a hurry” standard).

Basically the same rules apply to domain names. If you have a domain name very similar to that owned by another business then you can be challenged for passing off. As with normal business names this will depend on whether you are in the same industry, whether you are in the same geographical area and whether customers are likely to be confused or misled. If you are judged to be “passing off” your business then you can be forced to change the domain name. This can potentially be a very expensive and disruptive process for web based businesses.

Protecting yourself from passing off

If you have accidently registered a domain name where there is a danger of a passing off challenge then you need to seek some specialist legal advice from an intellectual property specialist. The potential court case and impact on your business could be huge and needs to be avoided. If you cannot afford this kind of legal advice then a good first step to resolving the situation would be to get in touch with the other company and see whether they are going to be upset by your domain name. Of course the best way to avoid passing off claims is to do your research before you register a domain.

When you do a domain name search the results you see will be for the exact words or phrase you have typed in. It will not show you similar names. It is therefore a good idea to do a normal web search on your preferred domain name before buying it. When you do this make sure you go past the first page of results and have a really good look at different combinations of the words in your domain to re-assure yourself there are no competitors out there. Also make sure that when you buy a domain name you get all the different TLD combinations such as .com, .org, .net. This makes sure both that no-one else has an existing site with them, and that no-one can set up such a site in the future. You should also consider doing a company name search and a trademark search. This will ensure that no-one else has already established legal protection on the words in your domain name. If this is done properly then you should have no “passing off” problems.

What is copyright and why does your business need to know about it?

Copyright for business Copyright is one of the 4 main types of intellectual property recognised in the UK. It is an automatic right which covers ‘original’ creative works. These can include literary works, music, art, images and film. It gives people who have created these works the right to either stop other people from copying them or the right to licence the copying and distribution of the work. In other words it allows you to sell the rights to the work if you choose.

While copyright is most often associated with creative works such as music, literature and film it covers a whole range of other things which may be of more practical use to most businesses. Examples of things which can be covered by copyright include:

  • The layout and content of your company website
  • Your company’s written marketing materials
  • Any images or videos your company produces
  • Logos
  • Diagrams
  • Instruction manuals
  • Computer programmes
  • Blog articles

In some cases these are things you may simply want to stop other people from copying. In others, as with computer programmes or instruction manuals, it may be something your company wants to sell or licence.

Copyright applies automatically to ‘original’ work. You don’t need to register your work or claim the copyright but The Intellectual Property Office recommend that you use the © symbol and put a copyright date on your work. In part this is because copyright expires anywhere between 25 years after the work has been published and 70 years after the author’s death, Having a clear copyright date on your work establishes how long your protection has left to run.

As with many areas of Intellectual Property law there is a degree of vagueness about exactly what is covered. There are no hard and fast rules on what counts as ‘original’ and ultimately this is something which will be decided on a case by case basis by the courts. There is also no central record of copyright protected work so it is up to individuals to make sure that they are not infringing other people’s rights. This can also lead to disputes as to who produced the ‘original’ version of a piece of work.

Because of this slight vagueness over copyright it can be better to use trade marking for logos and company names. This is because there is a central register of trademarks and once your trade mark has been accepted it has very strong and definite legal protection. For areas not covered by trademarks it is reassuring to know that your automatic copyright is in place to stop people profiting from your business’s hard work. .