IP for E-commerce

Today, the internet is a global network where computers communicate by sending information in packets. It is boundless with minimum regulation which makes protection of IPR on the internet a very challenging task.

E-commerce is the commercial transaction of goods and services in an electronic format. It is a business methodology that addresses the needs of consumers as well as traders by improving the quality and speed of delivery. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Declaration on E-commerce defines e-commerce as ―”the production, distribution, marketing, sales or delivery of goods and services by electronic means”. The development of ecommerce has been growing in leaps and bounds. E-commerce can be classified in four main categories: B2B( Business to Business), B2C (Business to Consumer), C2C (Consumer to Consumer) and C2B (Consumer to Business).

Common issues with respect to protection of IPR in e-commerce are:

  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Content creation through third party
  • Use of third party content on website
  • Hyperlinking, framing and meta tagging
  • Domain names

E-commerce is involved in selling a wide range of products and services like music, pictures, photos, software, designs, etc. which should be protected through Copyright laws or else they carry the risk of being stolen by someone else. Just because they are in public domain does not mean that anybody can use them. Permission has to be taken before one can use the products. Also, products which do not belong to you should not be distributed unless permission is obtained from the owner.

Ecommerce is heavily dependent on IP for its functioning. All the essential components of internet i.e. software, chips, network, routers are protected by IP. Copyright protection should be granted to each of the components to prevent them from being pirated.

Trademarks are also an essential element of ecommerce as branding creates recognition in the consumer market. Choosing a strong brand name and getting trademark protection for the same saves one from expensive legal issues in the future.

Another important IP issue that relates to ecommerce is the choice of a domain name. The domain name of the web can be generic but one has to keep in mind that it has to be distinctive enough to be protected by trademark. Also, no one else should have that name as trademark. Choosing a unique trademark will make it more probable for users to remember the name.

In ecommerce, one has to be careful while linking. If there is juxtaposition of two separate web pages within the same page, within a same frame, it will lead to Framing. When framing occurs on the web page, it appears that one page is associated with another, thereby creating brand dilution. Thus creating confusion in the mind of the users lead to an infringement of trademark.

Lastly, proper Meta tags have to be used for the web page. Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content. They do not appear on the page itself and only appear in the page’s code. They are like content descriptors that tell search engines what a web page is about. Meta tags should not such as to create a confusion in the minds of the user between two sources.