How to Protect Your Company Website From Thieves and Copycats

People will always try to imitate good original work, but knowledge of how to use federal copyright protection and trade dress is a powerful tool.

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Photo: Jana Gouchev, Esq., Intellectual Property and Business Attorney; Founder of NY-based Gouchev Law; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Jana Gouchev, Esq., Intellectual Property and Business Attorney; Founder of NY-based Gouchev Law; Source: Courtesy Photo

The look and feel of your company’s website is one of the most important ways a you can communicate your brand to a large audience.

The appearance of your website is the first impression you give customers. First impressions are so important because they convey your brand in 7 seconds—which is why businesses, large and small, spend so much time and energy creating their online presence.

So, when someone copies your website, whether it’s the design, text, or overall look and feel, you are anything but flattered. This type of copycatting happens all the time, but it is infringement, and you can do something about it.

Let’s dive into how you can protect your website from unlawful copying by a competitor.

 

Copyright Protection

Copyright law protects original expression once it is set in a tangible form. When it comes to a website, copyright protects the text, blog posts, reviews, testimonials, and other written material; music including lyrics; audio-visual content such as video and other marketing materials; and graphics including photos, images, and icons.

While an original work is protected automatically by copyright, you need federal copyright registration to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement in federal court, and to get statutory damages and reimbursed for attorneys’ fees.

What copyright does not protect is “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.” Copyright is useful to protect the individual elements of your website, but when it comes to protecting the overall look and feel of a website, consider turning to trade dress protection.

 

Trade Dress

Trade dress law protects the “total image” of a creation, including color, color combinations, size, shape, texture and graphics – we’re talking things like decor, packaging, and layout, among many other things. Famous examples of trade dress are the Tiffany blue box, or the distinctive shape and color of Coca Cola’s red bottle.

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Being aware of how trade dress law is important for small business owners. To ensure that you maximize the impression of your brand, you should take care to populate your website with elements that are not only distinctive, but also that are legally protectable.

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Trade dress also includes the way that the goods or services are displayed to prospective customers that indicate who created them. Trade dress with respect to websites includes the images, frames, colors, highlights, orientation, layout, graphics, animation, borders and sounds, as well as the selection and arrangement of all of these elements.

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