When it comes to launching a website, most business owners are focused on the content — making sure they have text that explains who they are and attractive images that help sell the brand.

But, if you’re not careful, your efforts to launch your website could result in a variety of intellectual property (IP) related troubles. While a website can be a powerful marketing tool, you don’t want it to turn into a legal headache that sees you fending off cease-and-desist letters. 

Here’s a closer look at some of the most common IP issues new websites face.

Domain Names and Trademark Rights

If you’re launching a brand new business, one of the first things you’ll want to do is select a name for your company. However, if your brand name is too close to that of another brand, they could sue you for infringing on their trademark rights. Rather than go through a costly rebrand, use the USPTO website to check for trademarked products or services before selecting a name.

You should file to register your new brand name as a trademark to give you ownership of the name and keep others from using similar brand names. 

However, once you do this, you should also try to purchase your domain name as soon as possible. If you wait too long, someone else could buy the domain name and jack up the price because they know you need it. Time things carefully so you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get your preferred domain name. Ideally, the domain name should be as close to your business name as possible, and you should be able to trademark it.

Using Others’ Content Without Permission

The average website owner isn’t going to try to copy someone else’s web pages verbatim. But they can still fall into a variety of IP traps when it comes to sourcing text and images.

Simply copying and pasting text from someone else’s website and inserting your brand name isn’t a good idea. Not only are you likely to get a legal complaint for stealing someone else’s content, but this will also hurt your SEO rankings, as Google prioritizes original content.

This also applies to blog posts. Never just copy and paste someone else’s article for your own blog. You can quote snippets from an article, but always cite the source and link back to the original. Otherwise, the same plagiarism issues can still apply.

Using unlicensed images can be even more problematic. If you use a copyrighted image from Adobe Stock, Getty Images, or another website without permission, don’t expect it to remain a secret for long. These companies regularly scan the web for unlicensed usage of their photos. You may have to pay a fine or even be subjected to a lawsuit.

To avoid this, either use original photography, pay to license photos, or get free-use images from a website like Unsplash or Pixabay. 

Keep Yourself On the Right Side of IP Law

While IP law can be scary, it doesn’t have to be overly complex. By doing your due diligence in selecting a domain name and securing trademark rights, and then only using content that you own, you can have confidence that your website will be clear of any legal troubles.