With our ever-expanding digital age, there are increasing issues in the legal sphere.
Meet Dina Leytes. Dina is an attorney at Griesing Law who specializes in intellectual property and new media litigation. She counsels clients on everything from e-commerce issues and content protection to fair use and social media risks.
We asked Dina for her legal expertise on some pressing web issues. She discussed how tools like SEMrush play a part in online monitoring, and two things that every business owner with a web presence should know.
Q: Your practice is focused on intellectual property and new media counseling and litigation. What types of issues are most common in this space?
A: The single issue that comes up most frequently is helping clients protect their brand and business online. Nearly every business uses the Internet and mobile technology to engage with customers, and the days of static, information-only websites are gone. However, an interactive online presence creates unique legal challenges for business owners.
Q: The story of the extortion of the Twitter handle "n" broke last month. How will social media networks need to address such matters in the future?
A: There are increasing cases of “ransomware” along the lines of what you highlighted. Our firm is working on a newsletter on this topic right now to be published in early/mid March.
One thing business owners can do is have cyber insurance to protect themselves in the event of account hijacking and data loss.
Q: What are one or two things businesses should do to protect their IP assets online?
A: There are two basic things that all businesses with an online presence should do to protect themselves with the help of a legal advisor who is experienced in this space. First, conduct a trademark clearance and register your trademark with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). A trademark registration enables the trademark owner to bring a lawsuit concerning the mark in federal court, and recover statutory damages and attorney’s fees for certain unauthorized uses of the mark. Also, in terms of protecting your brand online, a trademark registration is an important tool for stopping cybersquatters who seek to unlawfully register a domain name that incorporates your mark.
Q: Our senior sales manager recently spoke with someone who monitored franchisees to make sure they weren’t running AdWords campaigns with copy not allowed contractually. (For example, an owner of a burger chain franchise offering a burger sale that is not legal per his or her contract). How can you use SEMrush to monitor this activity?
A: Monitoring and enforcing agreements pertaining to online promotional activity is a complex undertaking. Tools that help with this function can definitely save businesses time and legal expense.
Using such tools, like SEMrush's Ads history report, a business owner may learn that someone they have contracted with is in breach, as in your example. Or a business owner may discover that a third party is making use of the business’s brand without authorization.
Trademark owners have a legal obligation to police their marks. This means that if a third party is using your mark without your OK, you are required to take legal action or you may lose your trademark rights. Often a phone call or a simple letter will correct the situation, but you first need to know that the infringement is taking place.
Q: Any developments in the area of IP and new media that you would like to share with our readers?
A: Yes. There is one significant development that will require businesses to revisit their online brand enforcement strategy. Many business owners have been dismayed to find that a third party has registered their trademark as a domain name on one of the existing generic top level domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .org and .edu. Currently, a major expansion of the domain name landscape is underway with hundreds of new gTLDs going live, including brands (.bmw, .canon, .nike) and common words (.app, .book, .home). Business owners need to be aware of the new gTLDs, and consider appropriate steps to protect their marks.
The Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the global Internet, has created new rights protection mechanisms for brands. Crucially, a business must have a trademark registration with the PTO to benefit from a number of these measures.
Dina Leytes is Practice Group Chair, Intellectual Property and New Media, at Griesing Law, a boutique law firm in Philadelphia, Penn. She has a BA in English and MA in Russian from Stanford University, and her JD from Emory University School of Law. Dina regularly speaks on intellectual property and new media topics.