A company lives and dies by its intellectual property (IP). The heart of an enterprise’s unique offering, IP is the source of everything that builds your business up, from reputation to market positioning. While it’s always been important to protect intellectual property, in the digital age, the issue is more pertinent than ever before.
What steps are you taking to protect the IP that your website exposes? And are you fully equipped to take legal action if your website IP is stolen?
Use this article to learn more about your rights regarding the intellectual property contained on your website and find out the most effective methods of protecting and safeguarding your website IP.
Intellectual Property Theft: A Growing Problem
It is estimated that intellectual property theft costs the U.S. economy around $225 billion each year. If you add the unseen cost of the theft in trade secrets, it could be as high as $600 billion.
There are two main types of intellectual property. The first is industrial property, which covers designs, patents, and trademarks. The second is copyright, which includes literary and artistic properties.
When it comes to your website, the intellectual property that you are seeking to protect will largely fall into this second category. While an idea itself cannot be protected by copyright, the way that it is expressed (for example, on your website) is automatically covered. The U.S. Copyright Act of 1970 formalized this protection, and yet theft and infringement still regularly occurs. As a result, being proactive about your website’s intellectual protection is essential.
What Are the Risks of Website Intellectual Property Theft to Your Business?
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of valuable, vulnerable content that your company’s website hosts. But when you consider the amount of time and effort your enterprise invests in the creation, maintenance, and review of your website, it starts to become apparent.
Blog content, product descriptions, podcasts, white papers, videos, images—company websites house huge amounts of collateral that supports and promotes their broader business. They’re often a source of detailed product and process information—content which you’ll want to make sure isn’t repurposed by your competition for their own commercial gain.
Even the design of your website could be at risk. Have you considered the issues and confusion that could arise from a rival company cloning the signature style and online presentation of your brand?
How Can You Protect Your Website’s Intellectual Property?
The first step to take is to label the IP on your website. Intellectual property labeling must be clear, without distracting from the overall purpose of the site. You should already have a legal disclaimer on your website and it may help to include references to IP within this.
When protecting your IP, make the reference to what you are specifically protecting. It may be hard for a universal concept to be protected, but your own design elements can be.
As an example, let’s consider a piece of original research. Your company has poured resources into the research and production of this report, and has made the findings available as a downloadable PDF on your website. While the concept of the downloadable guide is universal, the design, specific findings and content of the document are owned by your company, and as such, should be clearly labeled as protected.
Digital theft can be stealthy. After all, the original content remains unchanged and in place on your site, so how can you check to make sure that your website content is not being stolen and repurposed elsewhere on the web without your knowledge?
Thankfully, a range of tools and tactics exist to help businesses keep tabs on their website's intellectual property. Online plagiarism checkers are a helpful ally in the fight against infringement. Many are free, and do a great job of scanning the web for copy that’s been lifted from your own blog or website.
When it comes to graphical depictions, a tool such as Pixsy can help you find where images that you hold copyright for are being used without expressly granted permission and accreditation.
You can also turn sleuth yourself and do some good old fashioned detective work by leveraging a search engine such as Google (tip: add speech marks around a phrase to search for exact matches.)
Finally, don’t hold back from regular review of your competitors’ sites. If you suspect close overlap in terms of the content that they are producing and putting out, chances are they’re already keeping a close eye on yours!
Of course, protection of intellectual property cuts both ways. In addition to making sure your own website’s intellectual property is protected, you should also guard against the chance of your own employees’ transgression—be it deliberate or accidental. Encourage your employees to be aware of and alert to theft of your own intellectual property, but also ensure they refrain from infringing on the intellectual property of others.
Anyone who works on your company website, in its implementation and design, including any aspects of marketing and social media, must be aware of the responsibilities they hold with regard to intellectual property. It is imperative they have a working knowledge of copyright, trademarks and patentable process.
What should you do if you discover infringement or theft of your website’s intellectual property? In non-commercial instances, a simple request to remove the offending content might suffice. However, in a commercial context, be sure to cover yourself legally with a properly phrased cease and desist letter. If this is disregarded or refused, it’s time to escalate proceedings by suing for infringement. As soon as the need for litigation arises, you’ll want to make sure you have the evidence you need.
Admissible Website Evidence
If you find yourself in the position of needing to sue for infringement, admissible evidence is absolutely crucial.
In order to be able to produce this, you need to be able to access detailed and accurate records of your site. This will show exactly what content was presented on your website, and crucially, the time at which it was publicly visible.
Working with an advanced solution such as Pagefreezer Website Archiving means that all of your intellectual property will be automatically and accurately recorded. Enjoy the security and peace of mind that comes from the assurance of knowing that if evidence of intellectual property is ever required, you’ll have access to easily located, archived content—time and date stamped to provide unquestionable proof of your ownership.
Protecting your IP is not the only reason to archive your website. Read our blog post, 6 Reasons Companies Should Be Archiving Their Websites, to see why else website archiving is crucial.