Personal Finance

Protecting self against online infringement

ONLINE-SHOPPING
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Summary

  • With increased online trade, business owners are more exposed to infringement.
  • A shopkeeper will never leave his shop open because there is a high likelihood that his goods will be stolen.
  • In the same way businesses that provide goods and services online need measures to protect themselves from pilferage and theft of resources. 

With increased online trade, business owners are more exposed to infringement. In this article, I will explore various ways in which business owners can minimise exposure.

A shopkeeper will never leave his shop open because there is a high likelihood that his goods will be stolen. In the same way businesses that provide goods and services online need measures to protect themselves from pilferage and theft of resources. 

Here are a few instances. If a business doesn’t protect itself, it is very easy for a third party to commit the tort of passing off. Passing off would happen when the third party registers a domain similar to your businesses ‘and passes themselves as your business. 

I have encountered cases where fraudsters registered domain names similar to the ones owned by multinationals and fleeced the public with fake tenders and job opportunities. Theft can also happen through intellectual property infringement. For instance, when a third party downloads your resources from your website and passes these off as theirs. Your website can become a very key resource for a third party to find out more information about your business. When this information falls into the wrong hands such as competitors it can become disastrous. Take the example of a restaurant that posts its recipes on its website. There would be nothing preventing a competitor from downloading the recipe and applying it in their competing business.

Online infringement is made more complex because of its global nature whereas intellectual property laws are mostly territorial. Due to the global nature of the internet and the cyber world, it is easy for infringement to take place out of jurisdiction. Domestic laws are therefore not sufficient protection when it comes to online resources. More measures ought to be made to guard your business globally.

One remedy is the usage of international protection remedies where applicable. While this is sound, it is a very costly affair that is out of reach for many small online businesses.

I therefore propose the usage of legal, technological and strategic measures to guard against online infringement. For technological measures, I recommend the counsel of a good expert in the field to advice on usage of digital rights management systems and other software that would help you guard your online property.

When it comes to legal measures, I recommend that you dichotomise your online information. Decide on what is going to be in the public domain and what will be in private domain. It is important to have a mix of the two. 

The public domain is important for marketing and enabling transactions and sales such as a preface of a book would. Whatever is in public domain doesn’t have to be protected. 

The private domain would contain the information that is deemed to have commercial value. For example access to the actual resource in the event of an online service and therefore ought to be protected.

I would recommend that businesses therefore resort to using trade secrets to protect what is in the private domain. There are several strategies that can be used to secure whatever is in the private domain. 

One recommendation is to have users create accounts with their personal details. The users would then have to accept your terms and conditions before accessing the resource. 

Therefore it is important to draft a well detailed document containing he terms and conditions and making provisions against online infringement.