Five easy ways to protect your brand online

Tracey Porter

The thought of someone leveraging your hard-earned brand equity for their own profit is likely to be a frightening notion.

While putting your work online allows you to reach a global audience, it also greatly increases the chances of having your intellectual property copyright breached, your website hacked or someone cybersquatting your domain name.

Learn how to limit your vulnerability by considering the following tips.

Add a copyright notice

IP Australia says the moment an idea or creative concept is documented, on paper or electronically, it is automatically protected by copyright. Because it is automatic in Australia, there is no official registry or application process for copyright protection.

Ursula Hogben, General Counsel of online business law firm LegalVision, says to protect your brand online you should add a Copyright Notice or watermark to all work that you create, including articles, reports and images.

“You should set out your intellectual property and copyright rights in your websites terms of use. This alerts website visitors of your rights and the permissible or prohibited uses of your website.”

If possible, the disclaimer and other notices should be included at the commencement of each section or included in a link at the foot of each page.

Register your trade mark

Under the Trade Marks Act 1995, a registered trade mark can be used on the internet to protect the branding elements on your website.

According to Hogben, registering your trade mark will give your business considerably stronger rights than “if you did not register your trade mark [or] if a competitor uses the same or a similar mark in the classes you have registered in.”

Register your domain name

When you register a domain name you have a licence to use that name exclusively for a specified period.

Other parties can register similar domain names to you but must not breach the Australian Domain Name Authority Policy that states “.com.au and .net.au domain names must be an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrants name or trademark or closely and substantially connected to the registrant.”

Hogben says you should also consider registering variants of your domain name i.e yourname.com, yourname.com.au, yourname.net.au

Make your brand clearly distinguishable online

If your brand is unique, it will be easier to identify as yours and easier to protect, says Hogben

“When building your website, carefully consider your meta titles, descriptions and headers. Include your brand name wherever possible. This will boost your rankings on Google and avoid the risk of ‘copycats’ ranking ahead of you.”

Keep up to date

The internet is constantly changing. It is important to keep informed of developments, particularly technological measures that protect content.

Hogben recommends small business owners undertake extensive searches online, starting with the IP Australia database, to see if another business is using your proposed brand.

“Once you’ve chosen and established your unique brand, regular surfing of the internet helps check if another business is using your brand, your images or other work.”

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.

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