The theme of globalization that took center stage at the Canadian Small Business Women’s Expos in 2016 made one thing very, very clear – for small businesses, our communication HQ for reaching the rest of the world is our website.
While most of us are great at talking about our offerings and communicating our brand online, taking the time to set out certain legal notices, demonstrates how seriously we take our business and emphasizes what makes it unique. Drafted and presented properly, such notices can even take on the character of a binding contract between users and your business.
Here is an overview of the kinds of legal notices that should be considered for every website:
- Marking Intellectual Property Rights – Every business website is likely to include copyrighted content and present its content using various branding elements, such as a logo and word marks to distinguish various service and product offerings for the benefit of customers. In addition, business offerings may have other IP rights associated with them, such as industrial design registrations and patent rights. Making users aware of these rights by marking them where they appear helps you communicate to users what is unique to your business and makes it easier to prove that someone who misappropriates these rights had notice of them. Furthermore, if you are using IP rights, such as copyrighted content and trademarks with the permission of others it is best to include specific attribution regarding those rights, unless otherwise agreed to with the rights holder(s).
Marking IP rights is a shorthand way of giving notice of the existence of such rights. A basic copyright notice at the footer of every webpage using the ‘©’symbol and using the ‘TM’ and ‘®’ symbols to denote unregistered and registered trademark rights, respectively, will be familiar to many business owners. Similar shorthand ways of denoting industrial design and patent rights also exist. It is important to be aware that different countries may have different rules for how to properly apply IP markings to ensure that rights holders are not being misleading about the rights they have, or otherwise engaging in anti-competitive conduct. Given that websites transcend jurisdictional boundaries, understanding these rules in the markets you are targeting with your website is something every business owner needs to learn about, or seek the advice of a legal professional.
Providing conspicuous and clear legal notices such as those outlined above is a pillar of a B2B and B2C communication strategy that leads to mutually beneficial business relationships. It lets the public, potential business partners and competitors know you are aware of, and value your legal rights, as well as the legal rights of others.
If you would like to find out more about how to draft and create legal notices for your website, study the notices used by IP savvy businesses on their websites and consider consulting a lawyer to review the language of your notices and IP markings to make sure you are achieving the benefits that these notices offer.
Ariadni Athanassiadis is the lead attorney of Kyma Professional Corporation, which provides intellectual property (IP) legal services to help your business develop and benefit from the creative efforts and assets that make it distinctive. Whether it is your brand, product, services, designs, technology or business processes, Ariadni can help design IP legal solutions which let you make the most of what you give to your business.
Kyma Professional Corporation