We’ve spent the past several posts exploring different types of intellectual property protection. While many businesses concentrate on protecting inventions, brand names, and customer lists, they sometimes overlook the need to protect their website. Owners often think solely in terms of copyright protection for website content, but other types of protection may also apply. Here’s a quick overview of the different types of IP protection that may be necessary.

If your website is an online store with an e-commerce system, or has an internal search engine, it may be protected by a patent or a utility model. A utility model is similar to a patent in that it is an exclusive right granted for an invention which provides exclusive use rights for a limited period of time. The application process is less rigorous for utility models, but the protection period is shorter. Utility model protection is often appropriate for an incremental improvement rather than a wholly new invention.

The software on your website, including the text-based Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) which allows web designers to create font, color, graphic, and hyperlink effects on web pages, may be protected by copyright and/or patents, depending on country in which you are seeking IP protection.

Your website design is most likely protectable by copyright, as is the site’s content, including written text, images, music, and videos.

Any business names, including separately registered assumed business names (DBA), logos, product names, and website names may be protected as trademarks.

Behind the scenes elements in your website, such as source code, algorithms, programs, and database contents, may qualify as trade secrets provided that they have commercial value, are not disclosed to the user, and you take reasonable steps to maintain the confidentiality of such information.