|If you’re planning on going into business, especially online, you’ll need to know a little bit about image rights and trademarks. Why? Well, unfortunately, it’s easy to violate someone else’s rights in business, and unless you know exactly how to be careful, you could end up on the paying end of a large fine. Or worse, you could lose your business altogether.
It’s important to know just how far image rights and trademarks extend, and how to subsequently avoid infringing on someone’s rights. Also, knowing about it will allow you to protect your rights so knowledge of the subject is a win-win situation.
Let’s start first with image rights. This can mean one of two things. Image rights are sometimes considered an individual’s proprietary right in their persona. In other words, your image is you, and no one else has a right to use you without your permission. This includes the unauthorized use of your name, personal attributes, likeness, etc.
These types of image rights are referred to more as publicity rights, and they’re not exactly the image rights were speaking of for business. But just so you’re aware, you’re automatically protected against unlawful use of the aforementioned by way of publicity rights.
Image rights, in an online business context, have to do with an actual image. An image – photograph, logo, etc. – is personal property and belongs to its rightful owner. These rights extend as most copyrights do and are still property of the owner until years after death unless you have permission to use the image.
How can image rights bite you? Imagine you hired someone to make your website for you. It’s been a couple of years now and your business is doing well. Suddenly, you receive an email from someone’s lawyer saying you stole an image. It wasn’t you, of course, but the website designer took someone else’s image without permission and now you’re paying for it.
Having someone steal one of your images can also be bad news. They can imitate your business by taking an image without permission or, at the least, misrepresent that image. You have a right to take legal action if someone uses your image without your permission.
With image rights, just like intellectual property, the rights are automatically yours so long as you own the property. Trademark rights are a different story entirely; and to receive trademark protection, you either have to be the first to use the particular mark in commerce, or you must register your mark with a patent office.
A trademark is a symbol, phrase, word or any other identifying mark an individual’s business uses for its products. Think of the Coca-Cola logo that’s a trademark. Depending on circumstances, even the colour of a products package can be a trademark. For instance, if a similar product from another manufacturer was selling in the same colour packaging, it would be trademark infringement.
Trademark rights extend just as image rights. No one is allowed to use your trademark without permission. If so, then you can take legal action against the person or company stealing your trademark. Trademark rights will extend until a patent expires or until the company’s closing.