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intellectual property rights

Website Design Agreement 101: IP Fundamentals

By Business Contracts, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents
website designe agreement

When you’re a website designer, there are some important intellectual property (IP) ownership details you need to make sure are included in your contract with the client.

Most designers focus on big picture issues like payment terms, milestones, etc. And that’s certainly essential for site design and other business contracts.

However, IP ownership is often skipped. And that can lead to lawsuits because the client mistakenly believes they own something they don’t.

For example, let’s say you’ve created templates from which you start site design projects. And you recycle them on multiple projects for different clients.

Now most clients won’t know this is happening and will think they own everything you’ve created.

That’s why it’s important to clearly state in the website design agreement who owns what. This includes licensing provisions for the IP you intend to retain for yourself but will let the client use as part of the site.

There’s also the issue of third-party IP that you use for site design. For example, WordPress themes, plugins, stock photos and icons, etc.

Because you don’t own this IP to begin with, you obviously can’t transfer ownership of it to the client. So it’s important that your site design contract identify this third-party IP and tell the client exactly what rights the client has to use this IP owned by third parties. For instance, some of the IP may be subject to a open source license.

Although less common, there may be situations where you use public domain code, images, etc. on a site. The website design agreement should cover this issue too so the client doesn’t mistakenly believe they own something that’s in the public domain.

If you need a new website design agreement to use with clients or have an existing contract revised, it’s probably time to schedule a phone consultation with Business Website Lawyer Mike Young.

Does Your Startup Own All Of Its Intellectual Property?

By Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Lawyer

When you set up a new business venture, it’s common to focus on rapid growth without thinking about who owns the assets. This is particularly true when it comes to intellectual property (IP).

For example, you might form an limited liability company (LLC) or corporation but forget to transfer the company’s domain name registration to the business entity instead of owning it personally.

Or have employees and independent contractors doing creative work for you, such as software development or Web content creation, but don’t get in writing that the company owns these assets from those getting paid to do the work.

Who owns intellectual property is important to the long-term viability and value of your startup. Because it’s hard to get experienced investors, go public (IPO), or sell the company in a private acquisition if it’s unclear what the venture actually owns.

If you need help getting your IP ownership handled correctly for your company, it’s time to schedule a phone consultation with with Registered Patent Attorney Herbert Joe. Attorney Joe handles patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other startup intellectual property issues.

Who Owns Your Social Media Content?

By Internet Lawyer

When you’re posting original content (e.g. your photos) on social media sites, who owns and has the right to use the content? You may own the copyright but have you given the social media site a license to use your content however they want to?
This is not an academic issue but has serious real world applications for your intellectual property rights and your reputation.
What’s important to note is that each of the big social media sites has different policies on how they treat the content you post…and what rights you’re giving to them in exchange for the ability to post the content in the first place.
For example, some Facebook users photos were being used in advertisements on Facebook for products. In some instances, the users clearly did not want to be associated with the products and services being promoted on Facebook using their images.
What about Google Plus? Have you read the terms governing the use of the content that you post? Are you giving Google the license to use your content however Google wants? What about Google’s advertisers and others with which Google has a business relationship? Did you give them a license to use your content too simply by posting it on Google+?
It’s important to note that sometimes even the social media site’s policy governing content use won’t necessarily determine your rights. For example, Twitter has taken the position that users own their own content (not Twitter). However, there’s a lawsuit in New York where a court may very well decide that Twitter owns the content…even if you delete your account.
Finally, if your intellectual property is important to you, and you insist on sharing it via social networking, understand that a social media’s terms governing content use may change frequently. Primary reasons for such changes include government action forcing the modifications and settlement of class action lawsuits by social media users unhappy with how their content has been used/misused.
If what you’re posting on a social media site has tremendous value to you, always read the current terms governing content use and intellectual property rights before putting the content online.

ICANN TLDs: Get ready for domain name hell

By Intellectual Property, Internet Lawyer

Until now .com has been king when it comes to domain names. ICANN is changing that by unleashing thousands of new top level domain suffixes upon the world.

A couple thousand applications have been submitted for new TLDs (PDF file)…each with a $185,000 application fee.

Of course, there’s competition. For example, Amazon, Google, and five other companies look like they’re heading to an auction to see who gets .music

Making some Internet lawyers happy, there’s going to be intellectual property fights clogging the courts in addition to mucking up the search engine results. Two drug companies are fighting over .merck with some interesting trademark implications if they don’t come to an agreement. Chances are the owner of the existing isn’t going to be happy about a new

Will these new TLDs be worth anything for search engine purposes? Google and Microsoft (Bing) seem to think so. Google appears to have applied for more than 100 of these TLDs. Microsoft wants 11 of them.

Barring a lawsuit preventing it, or a change of plans by ICANN, you should start seeing these new domain suffixes online by 2Q2013.

How celebrities can hurt your website

By Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Lawyer

If this were a movie prequel, it would be called “Ocean’s 2.”
Co-stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts are suing companies that have been using their photos without permission online in ads to promote the companies’ business.
When it comes to actors, singers, and other celebrities (even “reality” show “stars”), you can land in hot water by using their photos to promote your business unless you’ve got written permission to do so.
Heck, you can’t even imply endorsement. For example, The Oprah reportedly has packs of lawyers hunting down website owners who claim she’s endorsed their products.
As explained in my book, “How to Protect Your Business Website Without a Lawyer” (, intellectual property laws do apply online despite the claims of some fools that photos you find by searching Google are free for the taking.
Even small business website owners screw this one up. For example, there’s a local shop that sends out a daily special to its email list that contains a celebrity birthday of the day. Treading into dangerous territory there because the business isn’t making it clear the celebrities are not endorsing the business. Where the emails cross the line is the business also includes a photo of each celebrity that the company has no right to use.
If you need a celebrity for promoting your business online, there are plenty of C-list actors who are available for chump change. Most people recognize who they are but they haven’t been A-list in years. Even so, whatever deal you work out with them needs to be in writing.