Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt You: Intellectual Property and the Internet

Recently, I attended an extremely interesting and valuable seminar held by the Business Marketing Association The seminar, titled Where the Internet and Intellectual Property Law Collide, was presented by Don Kelly, an intellectual property attorney with Gallop, Johnson and Neuman. As his title implies, Don specializes in, well, intellectual property—things such as trademarks, copyrights, and patents—and how those things apply to Internet marketing.

Don’s topic provided me and the other seminar attendees with some insights that I’m sure will help us—and our clients—steer clear of potential legal trouble related to Internet marketing efforts. As you might imagine, there were a lot of questions—way to many to cover in this short blog. So, I thought I’d share a couple of those that seemed to garner the most interest, along with a paraphrased or high-level answer:

Q: What are the laws pertaining to videos, audio, and other information I pull from other sites to use on my site or blog?

A: A lot of companies and bloggers are posting videos created by artists and companies other than themselves. Even though these videos have been taken from the Internet, they are OK to use as long as you do not claim the work is yours, i.e., acknowledge the creator, and that the purpose is to teach and inform, i.e., this is an example.

Q: Can an employee or contractor who performed work for me, for which they were paid, claim it as there own?

A: If someone works for you as an employee or contract worker they cannot claim work they’ve done for you as their own—in most cases. They should not be using these creations in any manner, on or off-line unless they have written and signed permission to do so. Unfortunately, we all know there are people who are deceitful, desperate or just plain ignorant and will use this work and portray it as their own. In many cases since it reflects so poorly on them, these companies usually stop these practices. In other situations they only stop when forced to do so in court.
One company was more or less being extorted from their graphical design company for extra payment and rights over a logo. The design company felt that they “owned” the trademark they designed for another company. Here’s the law: unless they have a document relinquishing rights and clearly saying, in writing, that they own the trademark, they do not. The company that hired the design company owns the trademark. It appears that in this case the design company may soon be faced with some legal problems. If they’re smart they’ll stop using it – immediately.

Q: Do I need to include a physical address on all of my marketing oriented emails?

A: You are required to include a physical address on all general solicitation emails you send—especially if you acquired the email address to whom you are sending from a third party. You don’t have to have it of course if you are just corresponding to a client, friend, associate, etc. with whom you have an existing business or personal relationship. However, as a matter of best practice, I suggest as a company you should have a standard email signature (see our article on this subject).

Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go deeper into some of the other areas. Nearly everyone I talked with left wanting more. I know I still have many questions pertaining to Google Adwords, email, and some trademark questions. So, due to overwhelming response, ePlus Marketing will be sponsoring another event on this topic in the near future.

If you’re registered for our newsletter you will receive a notice of this presentation. If you’re not on our newsletter list, you might want to sign up now. In addition to being advised and invited to this event, we’ll provide you with all sorts of other tidbits of useful information..

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