If you have followed along with us so far, here is what we have covered so far:
- Part 1 – Preliminary Considerations to Starting Your Own Online Business
- Part 2 – Naming Your Business
- Part 3 – Making Your Business “Legal”
Today we are going to cover what is arguably the most important part of starting your online business – registering and protecting your intellectual property.
Time to Plant Some Hawthorn Trees and Protect that Precious Intellectual Property of Yours
You’ve probably been wondering why in the world we are called “Hawthorn Law”. Dating back to the middle ages the Hawthorn Tree, (a dense, thorny shrub and member of the rose family), was planted along hedgerows to protect property from trespassers.
At Hawthorn Law, we pride ourselves in protecting the intellectual property of online businesses from would-be thieves and trespassers.
So now it’s time to plant your own Hawthorn, and start thinking about how you can protect your own intellectual property. Here's a quick rundown of what you need to do now:
- Conduct a systematic review of the intellectual properties owned or potentially owned by your business, used or acquired so you can start to evaluate what IP needs to be protected. This is also known as an “IP Audit”.
- Begin the process of registering your trademarks with the US Patent & Trademark Office. This includes the name of your business, your brand or dba name, your logo, the names of any of your major products or services, and any other proprietary names and elements related to your online business.
- If you have e-books, infographics, course content, a blog, and other original creative works, you should register the copyright to these with the US Copyright Office.
- If you have invented or designed a physical product that has unique design elements or otherwise requires protection, you should apply for protection with the US Patent & Trademark Office.
- Put in place a system to monitor your intellectual property for possible infringement. We recommend Google Alerts to monitor your brands and trademarks, as well as your company and personal names.
- Limit who in your company has access to your “trade secrets”.
Handling Your Web Properties
One of the frequently overlooked ares of your business is your website. Considering it is one of your largest assets, it’s vitally important that you include several specific pages on your site. Here is a list of the various policies and notices that we recommend:
- Terms and Conditions. This is a contract between your business and the visitors to your website. This is extremely important, especially if you are giving any type of general advice on your website (which most people do).
- Legal Disclaimers. You need to clarify for your visitors how the information they will obtain from your site can and cannot be used.
- DMCA Policy. This is a notice to anyone that may claim you are infringing on their copyright, as well as instructions on what they must provide to you or your agent for you to take down the infringing information.
Other Best Practices for the Interwebs…
- Insure that you have reviewed and complied with all Anti-Spam (i.e. the Can-Spam Act) laws for email marketing. (Most providers do this anyway).
- Review and comply with all FTC Requirements for your advertising
- Insure that you own the proper rights and licenses for all intellectual property (content, graphics, pictures, etc.) that you or your team have not personally created
- Safeguard all information collected from visitors to your site. Financial information (i.e. credit cards) is especially important, but you need to also protect email addresses and other personal information.
- There are special laws specific to how you may use testimonials – make sure to follow them.
- If your site is used to offer services related to “making money” or for people younger than 18, there are special laws and regulations that you will need to follow.
In the next and final installment of this series, we will be discussing how to solidify your legal relationships through the use of contracts, and how to make sure your employees love you.
Can't wait? You can download the whole business building legal guide here.
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