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The Small Business Website Guide

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Do I own my website? Understand your IP rights

Build your knowledge of IP rights

That may seem like an easy question to answer – you’ve paid for your domain name, designed the content to meet your requirements and make regular updates with information about your business, of course you own it…don’t you? Now take a closer look at the intellectual property (IP) your business uses in running and maintaining your site – are you still sure it all belongs to you?

Websites are just one of your business assets that are protected by copyright. Copyright is an automatic right assigned to the creator of any original material that is created and recorded in a material form (that is anything that is written down, recorded audibly or physically crafted).

All the content used on your website will be owned by somebody – if this is not yourself or your business then you need to find out who it is and whether you have the right to use it. This will include photographs, images and text.

Copyright ownership can be a tricky issue. If something is created for your business by an employee during the normal course of their work, such as an employee from your IT department who is building your website, then the business will own the copyright. However, if you hire a subcontractor to carry out this work on your behalf then they will have ownership of it.

You need to ensure that you put a contract in place before commissioning anything to explain that the copyright ownership will transfer to your business on completion of the work. Did you know that 74% of businesses cannot correctly identify the owner of copyright when using a subcontractor? Don’t get caught out by this!

Alongside copyright, there are other aspects of your website which could be protected by other IP rights. Did you know your company name, logo and domain name could all be registered as trade marks?

A trade mark is a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors and as long as your mark is distinctive and does not directly describe your goods and services then it may be possible to register it as a trade mark.

If you register your company name and logo as a trade marks, you can use these to promote your business and establish a loyal customer base and good reputation, safe in the knowledge that nobody else can trade in on your good name.

Registering a trade mark gives you the exclusive right to use it for your goods/services in the UK. It is your property, which means you can sell, franchise or let other people have a licence to use it. It also makes it easier to take action against anyone who uses your trade mark without permission and allows Trading Standards Officers or Police to bring criminal charges against counterfeiters using your mark.

This content is brought to you by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). For more information on copyright and how you can ensure yours is protected, visit the IPO website at

The IPO has a vast range of business support tools and resources available online to help you gain the most out of your IP. IP for Business includes IP Equip, a free e-learning course designed to help build your knowledge of IP rights and the IP Health Check, which will help you recognise the IP owned by your company and how best to protect and utilise it. Why not check out these tools today and find out if your business owns all the IP you believe it does?