Copyrights and Trademarks: What You Need to Know for Your Website

Have you ever wished you could get understandable information about trademarks and copyrights and other legal issues regarding your small business website?  For questions such as:

  • Someone is stealing my blog content and images — what can I do?
  • Or:  We have been using a logo for 3 years but have not filed a trademark; can we protect it or did we miss the filing deadline?
  • Or:  What’s the best way to remember to update your copyright date?

We’re here to help! We are holding a Twitter chat with an attorney and an experienced Web entrepreneur.  You will get the straight scoop on common trademark and copyright questions asked by small businesses about their online presence.  Here are the details:

WHAT: Online chat using Twitter.  These chats are also called tweetchats.  (Sounds exotic, but trust me, they’re simple events.)

WHO: We have two esteemed guest speakers.

  • Brent Britton (@bcjb) is an attorney with experience in Internet-related legal issues.  According to his Wikipedia entry he is “firmwide head of the Emerging Business and Technology practice group at the Tampa, Florida, office of GrayRobinson, P.A. He is a recognized expert in laws relating to virtual worlds and online communities, including virtual crime.” Brent will provide legal information and answer legal-related questions.
  • Denise O'BerryDenise O’Berry (@DeniseOberry) is a well known figure in the world of small business.  She is author of the book Small Business Cash Flow.  Denise is also a long-time Internet marketer and blogger.  She’s faced the common issues that small businesses face with protecting their online presence. Denise will help field questions, moderate the discussion, and add her perspective from firsthand experience.

Save date on your calendar!

WHERE: On Twitter.  You’ll be able to see a record of the chat during and after the event, by using the hashtag #SMBChat page.

HOW: There are 3 ways you can participate.

  1. Leave a comment below with the question you want answered.  Or, tell us about your experience with a copyright or trademark issue and any lessons learned.  We’ll try to get an answer or discuss your story.
  2. Log in to Twitter during the chat to follow the conversation and ask questions.  Do a search for the hashtag #SMBchat to follow what others are saying.  When you comment, be sure to add the hashtag #SMBchat to your tweets during the event.  That’s the only way others will know you are part of the conversation.
  3. During and after the chat we’ll have a checklist of pointers about trademarks and copyrights.  Return to the SMBchat page to download it.

WHY: Because I like you!

HP 8500 PrinterSPECIAL BONUS: We have an exciting random drawing for you.  Everyone who tweets in the chat or leaves a comment below, will be automatically entered in a random drawing for a chance to win an HP 8500 Officejet Pro Wireless Multifunction Printer/ Copier/ Scanner/ Fax.  This printer has a lot of great features for a small business, and I am giving it away to thank HP, who has made this chat possible by sponsoring this site.   See it here.

DISCLAIMER: This chat is for general information only. It should not be considered legal advice for your individual situation.

Update October 7, 2009: This giveaway has ended and the winner has been chosen.  Congratulations to Stacey Mayo, our drawing winner! A big “Thank You” goes out to everyone who participated.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

59 Reactions
  1. Anita,
    Since I recently completed trademarking The Franchise King name, I am going to be at this event-in full Royal wear. New Crown will be on…

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  2. Great topic on a confusing business topic. Any way I can follow-up if not available for live chat?

  3. Looking forward to the chat. I see alot of small businesses struggle with these concepts– not from just the Protecting their copyright standpoint, but also in RESPECTING others’ copyrights…

  4. Hi Tami,

    YES! We will have a log on the SMBChat page here on my site, along with a helpful checklist that Brent Britton is preparing.


    (1) Leave a question for Brent/Denise in advance.

    (2) Check back afterwards at:

    — Anita

  5. An important topic indeed. I will be anxious to hear any information they can provide to us. This is something I’ve often wondered about so I’ll be sure to attend.

    Oh, and a cool bonus giveaway to boot! Awesome.

  6. Dan X. Nguyen, Esq.

    Great seminar for small business. Crossing my fingers! :).

  7. I’m currently doing a business plan so I’m just at the beginning stage of thinking through all these components. Two questions that comes to mind (for now):

    Creative Commons – what does it really do to protect your rights?

    DMCA – what do I really need to know about this?

  8. How would you protect your brand in different countries? Could you get a “worldwide” copyright and trademark? Who could you help you with the TM – (C) process?

  9. This sounds really helpful Anita. Thanks for putting it on. I have often wondered about trademarks, and as you’d guess, simply fly by the seat of my pants hoping for the best…

    Looking forward to learning the right things to do about trademark and copyright for small biz owners (and others too I imagine).

  10. If I create video content for my website, do I legally have control over where that video can be played? For example, could someone link to, or embed my video in their own website? If so, what are my rights as the content creator?

  11. Hello,

    I feel I should trademark the name of my product but I’ve learned that even when the law is on your side, you still have to spend money and pay an attorney to assert those rights.

    So my question is:

    What can a TM really do for me? (in the event someone were to use my product’s name).

    Thank you


  12. Very timely as we just discovered a group on FB that lifted our logo. Not sure how to proceed as they don’t speak English so not sure if they’d understand a please cease and desist.

  13. Tracy Geannopulos

    I’m especially interested in international protection. Currently working with a lawyer to file our trademarks under the Madrid protocol, but how would one go about enforcing in another country?

  14. This is a very important topic. There’s much confusion about Copyright vs. Creative Commons. I’ve seen smart businesses ‘borrow’ things because they’re in a hurry and don’t or can’t go through the proper channels to get approval/purchase rights. U.S. is pretty straightforward as I understand it – Life plus 50 years upon creation but that you have much more recourse if you register with the copyright office. (Granted I’m no attorney – this is just my understanding). It’s the international arena in which I believe it’s almost impossible to police and protect your copyright. Particularly in places like China.

    Thanks for putting this on!

  15. Would love to know more about trademarks. How can I protect my unique program names until I have gotten a trademark?

  16. Copyright infringement is a huge problem on the internet. It is so easy for people to just copy & paste content and photographs. You can track content (to a degree) with web sites like, but it is almost impossible to track photographs, as far as I know.

    Here’s my questions:

    What are the recommended steps for dealing with copyright infringement?

    What do you do if the infringer refuses to remove the content or ignores correspondence regarding the infringed material?

    Is it worth it from a cost vs. results (ROI) perspective to pursue a copyright infringement case if the infringer is a very small company with presumably limited financial resources?

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this murky subject.

  17. Hi, I run a 2 health clinics and when a member of staff was poached by a competitor they took our questionnaire and used it in the new clinic they went to work for. Since then the clinic has published the questionnaire word for word (including office codes we use here that would only mean someting to us) on their website to be downloaded by clients for them to fill out before they go in for their appointment.
    The questionnaire I produced had the copyright mark on it but I’m not sure if that actually has any legality? Also a lot of the questions are generic and would need to be asked by any therapist doing our job so I’m not sure whether I can ask the competitor to change their questionnaire that much in any case? Thanks.

  18. Hi – second question if I’m allowed?!

    We have done some work with a celebrity and a foreign tv station (Asian) has lifted the photos off our web site and used them as part of a tv piece about this celeb (she has recently died). This piece can be easily viewed on youtube but will never get us any income as it’s for viewers in another country. Can we ask for payment for the material they used from our website?


  19. Great idea, I’m looking forward to participating. I’d like to know if you write a blog, and use images you find using a Google image search, what’s the best way to document those images in order to properly protect yourself from legal action? A note at the bottom of the post? A disclaimer on the blog site?


  20. A question for Brent/Denise:

    I understand the fair use issue, but how much is considered fair use? A phrase, a sentence, a paragraph?

    A question I am often asked is when is it useful to formally copyright a document through the copyright office? For example, I do not formally copyright my blog posts (but I suppose I could do so just like newspapers and other periodicals do each year in bulk), but I do formally copyright books. Also, any documents written for clients are not formally copyrights (that is up to the client), but I do include the copyright disclaimer. Is this an appropriate answer?


  21. Elizabeth Cusulas

    Can’t make the Twitter chat – another meeting conflicts. It’s a great idea though and I’ll
    be checking in to see the chat answers afterward.

    We’re setting up a nationwide membership program. Is there any way to effectively copyright or trademark the forms and processes we’ll be developing? Also, should we trademark logos as well as company names?

  22. Can you please comment on proper permissions posted online for photography and music use.

    Much appreciated.


  23. Wondering if you know anything about the Media Bloggers Association and if so, do you recommend it?

  24. please also touch on “service marks”. Thanks

  25. Hello! I’m looking forward to talking with all of you on Wednesday. Don’t forget to leave your questions here so we can get them answered for you. Brent has plenty of really helpful information to share so make sure you mark your calendar.

  26. For copyright on a web application what qualiies as code and what qualifies as content. And is it more important to copyright one over the other.

  27. In addition to the tweetchat, if small business owners have intellectual property questions they can ask them at: and

  28. My son has written and produced several rock songs. He wrote the words and music and recorded on CD tracks that were mixed by him.

    He gave the CDs to friends and now one of the songs has been uploaded to Phone Zoo as a ringer. He is concerned that his music (of which only one song has been officially copyrighted – it’s a money issue) is unprotected. Is there anything in the short term he can do to protect his music prior to actually completing a copyright form for the lyrics, music and performance?

    Thanks so much.

    Deborah Chaddock Brown

  29. Denise and Brent,

    You might want to encourage people to use the TweetChat site during your event. — It will allow peoople to filter the posts for #SMBchat and follow along more easily and it will automatically append the hashtag for the event. I like this site for following and participating in the conversation while it is happening.

    Then make sure you have also registered at the What the Hashtag site – It will also display a list of comments and replies, but the comments diaplay as an abbreviated list. The benefits to this site are the stats that are created and at the end of the event, you can create a transcript of the event which you can curate (manually) so you can arrange comments by topic and eliminate redundant comments. You can then post back to your blog.

    Alternatively, you can create a group / rooom over at Friendfeed particularly if you make this a regular event. I thought the chats on Friendfeed were the easiest to follow, particularly if there are a lot comments rolling in at once.

    Finally you can create an RSS feed for the hashtag and follow on a reader. (I use Google’s reader because of it’s longer term search capabilities and some of the new interactive funtionality they’ve just added.)

    Sounds like a gret chat. Hope I’m back in time from my meeting to join in.

  30. Great topic- How about more on creative commons, especially the direction it is going on v. current marks and protection.

    And comments on the TED talk?

  31. Can you include another company’s trademark in the keyword META field?

  32. Sounds too good to be missed! I will be looking forward to this.

  33. I’m considering choosing my domain name soon and was wondering if it can be trademarked also? If so, how do you go about doing that? Can’t wait to hear the responses to some of these. Should be a very helpful conversation.

  34. I made the mistake of not scooping up the extensions for my domain name when I bought it. Someone else has the .org, .biz and .net extensions of my domain name now. Is there anything I can do? I have a feeling they’re getting a lot of traffic that was intended for me. So frustrating. Any advice would be great.

  35. What is the minimum a small business should do with respect to filing trademarks and copyrights for their business names, logos, etc?

  36. I know nothing about copywriting and TMing, so this is a great topic – thank you.

    What’s the policy of copywriting photos? I have a blog that hosts kids’ photos submitted by parents. I’m concerned about these photos making their way from my blog to other sites and used inappropriately. Assuming I get permission of the parents to post the photos, can I say these photos are under a copywrite? I just want to protect the photos being spread without permission of my contributors.

  37. Apologies for the misspelling — COPYRIGHT I mean

  38. Could you please talk about copyrighting digital intellectual property like an EBook?

    Thank you

    Looking forward to tonight’s chat!


  39. Great information. Thanks for doing the chat.

  40. I enjoyed this type of chat. First time experiencing it and it answered a lot of my questions.

  41. Awesome tweetchat. Use #SMBChat in TweetRoom to follow the thread. Great learning about copyright and trademarks.

  42. I have worked with John Reddish (@getresults) helping to prepare some of his client’s trademark applications. Trademarks are trickier than some might think. Biggest misconception is that people want to trademark a logo or a tagline/phrase. But, trademarks are for items used in commerce, so until you SELL something using that logo or slogan, you can’t really trademark it.

    Also, Once you have submitted application, and paid money, and received the initial OK, then you have to take the next steps the USPTO says to do, then you have to enforce it.

    also will there be a transcript of the chat?

  43. Cathy Larkin: Very thoughtful comment. I have to mention this to an entrepreneur I am working with.

    Yes, I think that they will compile a transcript of the chat later on.

  44. Hi,

    Just wanted to correct a comment made by a colleague who has assisted our firm in some TM filings, who said, “Biggest misconception is that people want to trademark a logo or a tagline/phrase. But, trademarks are for items used in commerce, so until you SELL something using that logo or slogan, you can’t really trademark it.”

    Trademark can be claimed anytime simply by placing “TM” next to your logo, stylized name, slogan, etc., but to enforce rights under trademark law, registration (requiring search to identify competing marks and possible conflicts) and ongoing maintenance with the USPTO is required. Until such time as the mark is used in commerce, it is possible to file with “intent” to use and that filing starts an ongoing 6 month cycle with renewal fees to keep the “intent” status active. In filing, management and enforcement of Intellectual Property, we work with IP counsel throughout the US and abroad to help protect our clients’ right.

    My colleague’s comment is an attempt to reflect our general recommendation that “intent” filings, if there is no ready marketplace or near-term product/service availability, are not always productive. While a name presumably can be “taken off the shelf” generally its chances of being “stolen” are minimal. So, I usually advise clients, “let’s get something to protect, before we try to protect it.”

    You are to be applauded for putting these questions out there for people to consider. Too many blithely pick up and re-purpose proprietary IP without thinking they are doing anything wrong – that the author wants it circulated (without attribution or payment) – that all information on the web should be free. Creators of intellectual property seldom feel this way. If they did, they would not claim (or register) trademark and/or copyright and would never file patents. Nor would they keep their trade secrets, secret.

    Everyone’s creations have value, at least to them, and since it is their creation, it should be respected as such.

  45. John Reddish,

    Great statement: “Everyone’s creations have value, at least to them, and since it is their creation, it should be respected as such.”

    I recommend you to check out and read about “creation” and “creators”.

  46. Interesting topic that I’ve overlooked. Thanks

  47. Hello,

    You wrote: “During and after the chat we’ll have a checklist of pointers about trademarks and copyrights. Return to the SMBchat page to download it”.

    I’m confused. Where/how can we download information from last night’s chat?

    I went to the twitter page and found a link to this page.



  48. I don’t have a website but I’ve been doing some brainstorming in regards to incorporating catchy phrases with a product. As far as I’m concerned most of these phrases are universal. How can I find out if a particular phrase has been copyrighted? If I already know a phrase is copyrighted, what is the best procedure to purchase the rights to use it?

  49. There were lots of wisdom in this session, I’ve enjoyed it!

  50. I am starting a website based business. Some of the information I have read online is very good info and would help considerably. Things such as terms and conditions, site rules and such. I do not want to copy anything verbatim but was wondering just how much I need to change it up so it is not considered copy right infringement. Also if I am offer the same service as another company is is copyright infringement if I state my product or service and it is the same as theirs? Any tips or help would be appreciated. Just want to do thing leagally and not cause any problems for myself.

  51. I am blogging on technology and planing to register my logo and trademark.
    As you mentioned about Trademark issues is really big for us.Let’ find the registrar in India.

  52. Here’s an article that might help some people on legal requirements when designing a website:

  53. I just found out that someone just stole my whole article and posted it on their site without any credit to me. Sent them a notice of copyright infringement. Next step notice to Google to ban their adsense !