How Much of Your Web Site Should You Copyright or Trademark?
Generally speaking, copyright is a form of ownership that applies to the text, graphics, design, and other content on your Web site. As long as you have an ownership claim on all of the content on your Web site, you also automatically hold a copyright on that content. You don't have to register your copyright with the government to protect it, although doing so is necessary to take legal action against others who violate your copyright.
A trademark or service mark is a particular symbol, name, or phrase that identifies your business and helps consumers to recognize it. Your site's name may qualify as a service mark, for example, and the names of the products on your site may qualify as trademarks. In addition, if part of your site has a unique, distinctive appearance - a very recognizable graphic design, for example - then it may qualify for trademark protection, because that part of your site basically serves as "packaging" for your product or service
To protect your trademarks, conduct a search to ensure that your mark does not infringe on an existing one, and then register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This does not guarantee that no one will ever challenge your trademark, but it does strengthen your case if there is a problem.
Copyright and trademark registrations can get complicated, and you may want to hire a legal professional to help you with the registration process. If you're serious about protecting your company's intellectual property, however, registration is a wise investment. For further information, read How to Trademark a Domain Name.
You can also register a copyright or trademark online with sites like LegalZoom.com. They can also conduct trademark and patent searches and file provisional patent applications. Since LegalZoom is a self-help service, you will pay less than you would if you worked with an attorney. Regardless of what course of action you choose, educate yourself about the basics of intellectual property first.
If you are worried that another company may be moving in on your intellectual property, read Trademark Infringement for further information.
Get more tips on Web Site Hosting Agreements, and other Internet Legal issues on AllBusiness.com. AllBusiness.com provides resources to help small and growing businesses start, manage, finance and expand their business. Copyright c 1999 - 2007 AllBusiness.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.