Top 10 Tips for protecting your business online

In an increasingly competitive digital landscape, savvy businesses will be constantly harnessing new e-marketing and online tools in order to remain competitive. Whether operating an e-commerce site, offering a service or providing advice, the internet is a powerful channel of communication that can help companies to grow at an unprecedented rate, but whilst there are riches to be reaped, there are also potential threats and pitfalls too.

This is particularly true when it comes to protecting your brand online. Your brand is the very essence of your business, and whilst the importance of ensuring it is fully protected should never be underestimated, neither does it need to be daunting. Being aware of your rights is a good place to begin, because once you know these, you will be able to identify any possible threats or infringements that may exist and take preventative measures to manage the situation. The following tips will help to guide you through the process:

Tip 1
Choose your domain name carefully – the right domain name is a powerful business tool, driving online traffic and acting as the virtual face of a business or brand so it is vital that you know that you can use it to its full potential when setting up and developing a website.

Domain names are offered on a first come first served basis and problems can arise as a result of this. There may be competing companies with equally legitimate interest in the same domain name as you, so do your research before you buy the domain name.

Tip 2
Register a trade mark for your company name, brand name or logos – using the trademark ® sign is a warning to your competitors that a name is registered.

Tip 3
Having taken the time to register the trade mark and domain name, make sure these registrations are not allowed to lapse.

Tip 4
Carry out regular online checks against your registered trade mark or company name to ascertain whether either is being misused by your competitors.

Tip 5
Make sure you own the copyrights to your website. It is a common misconception that a business automatically owns the copyright. In fact, if you paid a designer to build your site, ownership remains with them. If possible, have the copyright assigned to you, so that you can amend or develop the website as necessary.

Tip 6
Place copyright notices on your website and on any photographs on your site. Copyright generally comes into being without registration or any other formal requirements – it exists once an original work has been created.

Tip 7
Make sure that you have the right to use any images, graphics or text on your website. If you have a licence to use these for limited purposes, make sure you know the limits of the licence.

Tip 8
Make sure that the content you create for your site is original and not copied in any way from another website.

Tip 9
Have clear website terms and conditions and a comprehensive privacy policy.

Tip 10
Take steps to protect your data and sensitive information, to ensure that if key employees terminate their employment, they are not able to use such information.

By Deborah Niven, specialist lawyer in intellectual property and associate at hlw Keeble Hawson