How to Avoid Copyright Infringements and Trademark Violations As a Small Business Owner

The shopping scenario has changed in the last few years. Online shopping covers the lion's share, and online shopping platforms, including social media, give an excellent opportunity for small traders to grow.
These platforms enable small traders to sell their products, saving on the establishment and maintenance costs required by a physical shop, but a few sellers, to save more and grow big, make a few mistakes that lead them towards IP disputes. One primary reason small business owners get into IP disputes is selling counterfeited products.

Before listing the mistakes, let's have a brief clarity on the concept - 

  • Copyright: A copyright is an intellectual property legally belonging to the author of original writing works. "Works of authorship" include anything written, published, performed, or captured on film and audio or video recordings of literary, artistic, or musical works. Reports, checklists, algorithms, computer code, articles, and spreadsheets are a few examples of widespread documents used by consultants, coaches, and providers of professional services. You have exclusive rights as the owner of copyrighted content, including the ability to restrict its use, duplication, modification, and dissemination. Nothing may be done without your written consent (a "licence"). If someone performs anything without your consent, you have the right to demand that they cease and compensate you financially if they cause you harm.
  • Trademark: A trademark is a form of intellectual property, but it differs from other forms in that it aims to identify a source or brand in the public's perception. Usually used to identify a company, trademarks are words, phrases, symbols, or designs. Think of a slogan or a logo. In both situations, these legal safeguards are designed to stop intellectual property theft, whether yours or someone else's. You may still be responsible for breaking copyright or trademark rules, even if it was an accident. 

IP Infringement

Here, we have listed some of the most common kinds of copyright infringement -

  • Using images or videos from the Internet without permission

Without the owner's consent, you should not utilise any pictures or videos you see on websites or social media. To avoid copyright infringement, look for royalty-free stock photographs and films when using images and movies from the Internet on your website. 

  • Copying protected content without authorization.

Reproduction of copyrighted materials, such as books or software, is prohibited without the owner's consent. If you must use someone else's content for fair use on your website, such as commentary, criticism, or news reporting, give them credit by quoting sparingly, referring to the source material, or listing the author and source. 

  • Using music with a copyright in a professional context.

Without a licence from the copyright holder, you should not play music protected by copyright in your store or website. There are, nevertheless, legal ways to play music in your shop. First, if your store is smaller than 2,000 square feet, or 3,750 square feet for a dining or drinking establishment, you are legally permitted to play any public radio station. However, as these streaming services are only for personal use, you cannot use your own Sirius XM or Pandora account. 

  • Making and selling counterfeit goods

Without first getting permission from the copyright holder, you should refrain from making products that mimic or closely resemble the design of a product protected by copyright. Suppose the product you are developing is comparable to one intellectual property law covers. In that case, you must locate the owner, contact them to discuss payment and obtain a written agreement. The owner won't be able to break their word and file a lawsuit if the agreement is in writing.

  • Using trademarked content in advertising

Without the owner's permission, you shouldn't use images or films protected by copyright in your advertising. You must either get permission from the copyright holder, as in the preceding cases or use royalty-free content in your adverts.

  • Generating unauthorised derivative works.

Never make new works based on previously published works protected by copyright without the owner's consent. Citations are required, just like in college, but you must also get approval from the copyright owners if your work is amended.

Trademark Infringement

  • Using an identical brand name or logo. 

Consumer confusion and trademark infringement may result from using a confusing brand name or logo to one already protected by a trademark. Make sure nothing identical to the proposed name or logo exists by conducting research before choosing it.

  • Distributing fake goods.

It is illegal to sell items with trademarks that are identical to or confusingly similar to those of another company without their permission. Like copyright, you need permission from the trademark holder before developing a similar product, and you should discuss payments. 

  • Using a name or logo that has been trademarked in marketing.

A trademark infringement occurs when a name or logo is used in advertising without authorization. Make careful to get permission before using branded products, delete them from your ads, and hunt for royalty-free substitutes. 

  • Impersonating a company that has a trademark.

It may be illegal to use a business name and branding that are too similar to those of a company that already owns a trademark, so be careful. Once more, conducting research before choosing a name and brand is crucial. Even if you were unaware that the other company even exists, this can still be seen as a violation.

  • Utilisation of a trademarked name or logo in a domain name.

It is against the law to use a trademarked name or logo in your website's domain name without authorization. After all, your company, not someone else's, should be referenced in the domain name. 

  • Utilising a trademarked name or logo as a login on social networking.

It is against the law to use a trademarked name or logo in your social network usernames without the owner's consent. Due to its informal character, social media may appear acceptable, but it is still a reproduction of someone else's property, which is strictly forbidden.

In general, small business owners must use due diligence to make sure they are not breaching trademarks or copyrights. You could still be held accountable for any infractions, even if they were inadvertent or you weren't aware that a copyright or trademark was already in use. In marketing and advertising, use only music, films, and images that are public domain. Find out whether any names, brands, or goods are comparable to yours by doing research on competing products. Last but not least, to assure your protection, register and record your own copyrights and trademarks.