Top Tips To Protect Your Intellectual Property On Social Media
Written by Andrew Hilton, UK and European Patent Attorney (Part Qualified) | Specialist in Intellectual Property and Engineering Technology at Haseltine Lake
Social media has dramatically changed the way a company’s Intellectual Property (IP) is managed. All the rules of engagement with potential customers, colleagues and competitors have been turned on their head, with everyone now a potential journalist and publisher.
This seismic shift in the culture of how businesses communicate has left the legal support system struggling to evolve and adapt at a rate rapid enough to keep up with the developments in social media.
The sheer amount of content that is uploaded to the internet, the speed at which it is published and the enormous number of people who can be reached on a global basis compounds these challenges further for owners of IP rights, who can be exposed, unknowingly or otherwise, to liability for breach of these rights.
As a starting point, below are some of our top tips for protecting your IP on social media:
Copyright is perhaps the most high-profile issue concerning IP and social media, and it will likely remain that way. It is important to be conscious of the potential to infringe the copyright of other people online as well as being vigilant about protecting the copyright of your own works. With social media apps, particularly image sharing sites such as Instagram, copying and sharing other users’ photos is particularly easy. However, it is usually the case there is copyright in the image and the owner of the copyright is entitled to have a say in how and where the image is reproduced. We urge designers to carefully check the terms and conditions of each of the sites of which you are members to understand what rights you hold and to ensure you know where you stand if you discover that one of your images has been used in a way you were not expecting.
Social media is, by its definition, social, and asking your fans or followers to submit their own content to your channels is part and parcel of developing a social media audience. However, do consider who then owns that submitted content. The possibilities range from the user retaining full ownership to the user transferring ownership completely to you. Although claiming ownership of the content gives you more flexibility in how you can use it (design ideas for a solution to a client’s problem, for example), it also increases the risk of liability for defamation and intellectual property right infringement accusations.
As social media use has become part of everyday life, the risk of corporate accounts being hacked and company executives being impersonated become more and more likely. It is vital to develop an internal monitoring system that works for your organisation so that someone is responsible for keeping track of what is being said about your brand and your products on social media with a particular eye on potential IP infringement.
Patents protect technical innovations, i.e. the way something works. However, one important factor that can prevent a patent from being granted is a public disclosure of the invention prior to the filing of the patent application. Therefore, it is critical for companies to have policies and procedures in place to prevent employees from revealing confidential information relating to an invention via social media, whether inadvertently or maliciously.
Just like compliance requirements, managing your social media presence has become an essential requirement for any serious company, so speak to your IP advisor to help your company refine its social media systems. This will serve to better the social media profile of the company and will pay dividends down the line.
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