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Creating a business website: key legal issues

When you’re designing your website, you have a ton of things to think about. You’re concerned with the way your business is presenting itself to the world, and this means you’re less concerned with things that may seem trivial.

Recently, Apple was smacked by a lawsuit for overlooking something: a particular graphics module used on their website was a design patented by a developer named Samuel Lit, who is now suing the company for infringing his patent.

Apple made the mistake of believing that something was open source when this simply wasn’t the case. If you don’t want to find yourself in the same position Apple is in, you’ll have to be a little smarter about the way you put your business website together.

Trademarking and Domains

You’ll obviously want to trademark the name of your business, and you’ll want your domain name to match. What happens if someone else already owns your domain name when you attempt to purchase it? You’ll find yourself at war over the name of your business before your website even starts.

Before trademarking your name, make sure you can use it as a domain name. You’ll usually have the option to purchase your domain as a .com, .net, .biz, and .org. You may want to consider snagging up all of the variations to prevent issues from popping up down the road.

Setting Your META Tags

META tags are the keywords that help search engines index your website. You want people to find you through Google, and this makes these tags vital. You do need to be very discerning in the tags that you choose, because any tags that directly interfere with your competition or can be perceived as misleading your users can get you into muddy waters.

Patent Issues

Apple made this mistake, and you can make it, too. Unless you’ve hired and paid a designer to create your website from scratch, you may run into patent issues. Templates created by freelance designers are often presented with a list of ways in which you are allowed and not allowed to use them. Many times, these designs are not free for commercial use. You’ll have to pay the designer a licensing fee and include their personal copyright in a location that the designer specifies.

User Privacy Expectations

Presumably, you want users to make purchases through your site. This involves them submitting a lot of sensitive information. You have full names, home addresses, and credit card numbers being processed through your site on a daily basis. If they aren’t being processed correctly, you’re putting all of your customers at risk.

You can’t risk misleading customers about how you intend to use this information. If you intend to sell or trade it, your customers need to know. More often times than not, nobody will want to shop through you if you’re going to give up their information, so it’s best to avoid that entirely.

You’ll also need to make sure you’re using a system that is constantly updated to meet current security standards to the letter. If your negligence makes people vulnerable, they’re entitled to pursue legal action against you.


Due to the DMCA, copyright issues are a little tricky. The copyright is seen to be owned by whomever created the website. If outside contributors designed your website or created content, they are seen as the copyright holders unless they have specifically agreed to waive their rights. If all content is designed and created by the business, the business is the de facto copyright owner.

Some websites choose to include copyright statements in the footer of each page. While this isn’t necessary for legal copyright protection, it may help. This footer note can be hyperlinked to a larger copyright statement that includes your preferred stipulations about fair use.

As the web continues to grow, the legal climate will continue to shift. Make sure your legal team keeps a watchful eye on the situation. You may have to make changes at a moment’s notice to remain compliant.

About the author

Katie Lee is a marketing manager at Harper Finch Lawyers – one of Brisbane’s criminal law firms, offering legal services pertaining to criminal and traffic offences.

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