In an increasingly digital marketplace, organizations now devote significant resources toward building and maintaining their online presence. The digital presence can range from a website and blog to social networking and an online storefront. Unfortunately, many organizations face copycat web developers and unscrupulous business practices across the world wide web.
Even though websites and other online properties are not specifically protected by copyright and trademark law, there are legal guidelines in the form of “trade dress.” Trade dress infringement generally applies to products that have incorporated the look and feel of other entities. If the packaging of one product is made to have the same look and feel of a competitor’s product, for example, it can be argued that a trade dress infringement has occurred.
While the look and feel of a product is nebulous terminology, it can refer to the size and shape of the packaging, the typography, the name or even the colors used. It can quickly become a complex legal battle, but they are necessary to protect a company’s products, image or reputation.
Does this translate to the digital arena?
While the actual content might have certain levels of copyright protection and guards against plagiarism, the look and feel of a website might be harder to define. There are numerous critical elements to examine, including:
- Site color scheme
- Font and text design
- Banner imagery
- Alt text
- Naming conventions
- Video names or status update wording
Additional factors, when taken in conjunction with the above, can create a confusing similarity between the look and feel of numerous websites. For example, design elements such as the types of imagery used throughout the site and the overall layout of the site can infringe on the look and feel of the original. Businesses that rely on video production might see their editing style, typography and music choices copied by competitors.
If you are concerned about your website or other online properties, familiarize yourself with what legal protections are applicable.