In these unprecedented times the ability of businesses to sell online may turn out to be a vital lifeline, and many businesses who have not previously sold online may now be considering the feasibility of doing so. This has obvious and undeniable benefits but also presents potential pitfalls that businesses should be aware of, particularly if they have not previously sold online or do not currently have much of an online presence.
When moving to online sales businesses, particularly if they rely on websites such as Amazon or eBay, are going to find themselves competing for the attention of consumers in a much tighter market then they may otherwise be used to. This throws up the risk that your brand or your products become, intentionally or unintentionally, the target of infringers causing confusion in the marketplace and potentially damaging your reputation and costing you sales, particularly if the infringer is selling substandard or even unsafe counterfeit products.
In these circumstances it is important that you monitor the activities of your competitors and the online marketplace as much as possible and look to act if and when you discover infringements.
The good news is that taking action against online infringements is generally quicker, easier and a lot cheaper than taking traditional Court action, so long as you have registered protection in place for your intellectual property. If you have registered your brand as a trade mark, your inventions as patents or your products as designs you can send ‘takedown notices’ to any website or website host that is hosting infringing content, requiring them to remove any pages which feature the infringing content. This act of removal is normally sufficient to protect your IP.
It is possible to send takedown notices relying on unregistered rights, such as copyright or passing off, but it tends to be harder to get websites to act on the basis of infringement of unregistered rights than if you have a registration in place. Selling online could have big benefits for your business, particularly in the current climate. It pays however to be very proactive in monitoring the online marketplace and enforcing your rights.
If you have any queries, please contact our Intellectual Property team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.
This alert does not provide a full statement of the law and readers are advised to take legal advice before taking any action based on the information contained herein.