Does your website allow users to post content in any way (whether it be through a message board or even a simple comment or review), or do you link to other websites from yours? If so, you may be subject to liability for copyright infringement if the posted or linked content is infringing. Luckily, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”) creates safe harbors which could provide protection from such liability.
To qualify for the safe harbors, a website operator must satisfy a number of requirements, which may include the following:
Adopting, reasonably implementing, and informing subscribers and account holders of a policy for terminating repeat infringers’ use of the operator’s system or network under appropriate circumstances; and
Designating an agent to receive notices of alleged infringement. As of the end of last year, the U.S. Copyright Office (the “Office”) implemented a new electronic system for the designation of agents. The Office will no longer accept paper designations.
If you already comply with the DMCA safe harbors and previously filed a paper designation, you will need to submit a new, electronic designation by the end of the year to maintain your compliance with the DMCA safe harbor. Once filed electronically, the designation must be renewed every three years.
If you operate a website that links to other websites or allows users to post content but have not complied with the DMCA safe harbors, you may want to consider designating an agent with the Office and implementing the other required policies to gain the benefit of the DMCA safe harbors against copyright infringement claims.
Protecting your company’s trademarks is important to grow your brand and prevent other companies from trading off your hard-earned goodwill. Below are a few things to keep in mind when creating and protecting trademarks:
Choosing a Trademark
There are a number considerations when choosing your company’s trademark. Among other things, you should:
make sure that your mark will not infringe on an existing mark. Your trademark could infringe another trademark because it is spelled the same, looks the same, or even sounds the same.
consider choosing a more “distinctive” mark to receive a higher level of protection.
make sure that the domain name is available for purchase. Even if the trademark has not been registered, the domain name may be in use by another company.
The best trademark protection comes from registering the mark. Where you register will depend on where the trademark is used.
If the trademark is used for goods sent across state lines or services that affect interstate commerce, a federally registered trademark would provide the most complete protection.
If the trademark will only be used within one state, state trademark registration may be a simpler (and cheaper) alternative to consider.
Keep in mind that just because your company is registered with your state’s Secretary of State or because you have registered a fictitious name does not mean your trademark is automatically registered.
Once a trademark application has been filed and the registration has been received, you must have a plan in place to police your brand to make sure that others are not infringing it. If someone is infringing your trademark, this could lead to a loss of business or could affect your company’s reputation and its ability to fully protect its trademark.
As your company evolves, so must your trademarks. As you create new products and services or expand the area of your business, you may want to create new trademarks or file existing trademarks in new jurisdictions.
These are just a handful of items to keep in mind for creating and protecting your company’s trademarks. Other forms of intellectual property protection for your company may also be available through copyright and trade secret protection. For more information on using intellectual property law to protect your brand, please give us a call or email.