We are a start-up based in Finland and active in the field of green technologies. In order to raise our visibility, we are currently setting up our own company website. Will it be protected by intellectual property rights?
In the EU, websites are usually protected by copyright, as long as they are original, meaning that they reflect the creativity of expression of their author. Copyright protection arises automatically, upon the creation of the work, and therefore requires no registration in order to be effective.
However, it is always good practice to remind your website visitors of the existence of rights over your website, in order to avoid unintentional infringements. This can be done by including a copyright notice on your homepage. This notice will not create rights, but should be used for information purposes. A copyright notice would usually be presented as follows:
· © [name of copyright holder, e.g. your company] [year of creation-current year]
Besides their informative nature and in certain jurisdictions, copyright notices can also have a part to play in court proceedings – in case of an infringement dispute, the existence of a copyright notice would create a presumption as to the ownership and date of creation of the work. It is therefore advisable to include one on your website, and to keep it up-to-date.
Copyright protection will grant you several exclusive rights, including in particular the right to prevent any unauthorised reproduction of all or part of your website. However, and depending on the type of content you will publish on it, you may decide to allow certain re-uses or reproductions of the information you make available through your website. In this case, you can modify your copyright notice so as to state the uses you wish to authorise, or create a separate webpage dedicated to copyright, in which you can describe the ways your content can be reproduced (e.g. reproduction allowed for non-commercial purposes) and/or the conditions to be complied with to this regard (e.g. identifying your company as the source and copyright holder).
Please note that the individual works which constitute the contents of your website may also be individually subject to copyright, provided that they are original. This would be the case of, for instance, the articles, written reports, images, videos, or graphs that will be included in your various webpages.
If your website contains databases, please note that these can also be subject to copyright protection if they comply with this requirement of originality, that is, if their contents are structured and arranged in an original manner. Non-original databases may however still be protected in the EU, under a separate protection regime (sui generis database right).
Bearing in mind the above, it is therefore important for you to make sure that the individual works and content displayed on your website are yours, or, if they are not, that you have obtained the permission from their respective owners to use them. This will prevent you from having to deal with infringement claims at later stages.
As you can see, various layers of rights can apply to your website and to its contents. Besides these, it is important to remember that some of the information or content published on your website might be subject to other forms of protection. This will be the case, in particular, of the name or logo you display on your website and that you use to identify your products or services on the market. Such name should be registered as a trade mark in order for you to secure the exclusive right to use it, on your territory and in relation to the categories of products and services you intend to commercialise. Similarly, while a logo may be protected by copyright in certain cases (if it qualifies as an original work), it is advisable to also register it as a trade mark. In other words, the simple fact of mentioning a brand name or including your logo on your website will not give you trade mark protection over these signs.
Finally, setting up your own website will involve registering your own domain name. In order to do so, you should consider applying for registration through an accredited domain name registrar, in order to make sure that you have the exclusive right to use it. However, we would like to highlight that registering a domain name will only grant you the right to use it as such, and will in no way give you proprietary rights over this name (such as the rights granted by a trade mark).