Social Media and Intellectual Property

Social Media and Small Businesses

Many businesses are still reluctant about using social media. Some of this comes from not keeping up with the various forms of social media as the technology changes quickly. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have a presence in every forum. However, as a business owner you may find it difficult to compete with more tech-savvy organizations if you ignore social media. Even worse, your absence may open the door for a competitor or unscrupulous user to represent themselves as you. They can begin to negatively influence the public against you. Alternatively, they can drive potential customers to their own company, effectively poaching business from you.

If you’re interested in putting social media to work for your business, then you need to understand it. The concept of social media began with social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. These forums went from ways to make social connections to becoming places to generate business in a remarkably short time. Before long, businesses were also diving into social media services like Twitter and Instagram as additional methods of connecting with customers.

It also feels like new social media platforms are launched monthly. So for a small business it can be hard to keep up with protecting their intellectual property across each of these new programs.

Typical Social Media Pitfalls

Social media is a great way to connect with a target audience, but it does have pitfalls. It’s easy to run afoul of someone else’s intellectual property rights when using it. Perhaps copyrights are the most frequently infringed intellectual property in this context. It happens when your company copies and posts someone else’s photograph on your Facebook page without giving proper credit or asking permission. You may be setting yourself up to receive a cease and desist letter and perhaps even a demand for financial compensation.

Your Intellectual Property Rights on Social Media

By the same token, it pays to be vigilant of your own rights. If you see that someone is using your copyrighted image, you are within your rights to demand that they remove it. You are entitled to seek full legal remedies if someone infringes on your copyright. Of course, first you must seek copyright registration for all content that you publish on social media. This provides you with the right to go after infringers to the fullest extent of the law.

Trademarks can also be endangered when used on social media platforms. It’s not unusual to see a startup company using a copycat mark that changes one or two small elements of a mark. If that company is operating in similar trade channels as you, then they are trying to steal some of your customers. Once again, this is the type of infringement that it’s important to be vigilant about.

Having consistent trademark usage guidelines and following them is an excellent way to make certain that you maintain control over your intellectual property. Make certain that all of your social media posts link back to your website so there’s no confusion about who owns that content.

Social media can be a chancy proposition for those who are unprepared to protect their intellectual property. Meet with an intellectual property attorney to discuss more strategies for protecting some of your company’s most valuable assets. Williams IP Law provides intellectual property development and litigation.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner.  He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.    
 Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005.  He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree.  He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010.  By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.