Managing your business online: Branding, copyright and social media

GavelYour online business content should remain current and legally protected, as well as looking good and functioning properly. Your brand may already have some degree of legal protection through trademark registration, but enforcing that protection is another matter and will require some time and effort to ensure that your unique presence isn’t being ripped off.

This aspect of online business management was highlighted last month, when the Hotel Cipriani in Venice successfully sued a pizzeria on Belfast’s Lisburn Road for flaunting its European-wide trademark of the ‘Cipriani’ name, forcing the Belfast business to change its name and website within days of the ruling in Belfast’s High Court.

For anyone who cannot afford the time to trawl the web reading reviews and monitoring rivals’ websites, there are online reputation management services that offer software to do the job for you. However, it is worth remembering that in the case of branding you need trademark legal protection first.

The issue of copyright is a little easier, as legal copyright protection is offered automatically for a wide-range of original content. This means that your words and the way of describing your business and its products are protected, to a degree, from being directly copied. Of course, you are unlikely to monitor the written content of rival’s websites, but if you find your content is being copied you have a fairly straightforward remedy in asking your solicitor to write a letter asking for the content to be changed or removed.

Evidence suggests that 75% of business owners are put off using another company by their poor use of social media. However, maximising social media is another aspect of business where sensible legal protections need to be employed.

Ensuring your business has a robust social media policy is important for businesses of all sizes. The damage that can be caused by a loose social media post or a disgruntled member of staff airing their views online can be considerable. Companies can protect themselves by commissioning a clear social media policy to ensure that staff and management understand what is expected of them when posting online.

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