Whether you are a young entrepreneur looking to venture out into the world of small business, or you are a high level marketing
firm, you need to fully comprehend the ins and outs of basic marketing and law. It’s important to know what will get you (or your clients) in hot water, or even worse, put out of business. Claiming ignorance will not work as a defence when you’ve been dragged into court over trademark or copyright issues. There is a very thin line between what is protected and what isn’t; the following are ways in which you can assure that you are properly protected from a costly and time consuming lawsuit.
When it comes to names, catch phrases and images it’s generally a good idea to check a Trademark Database. If you find what you’re looking for in the database, it doesn’t mean that you cannot use it; however, you would be wise to ask permission from the trademark holder. Unless you are a direct competitor of the trademark holder, they tend to give or sell permission. This rings especially true in regards to using stock photos for websites and catalogs.
Copywriting and Ad Copy
If you make your living writing ads that capture and engage an individual into purchasing your product, it might behoove you to check and see if your country has specifics on what is and isn’t acceptable. I check in with The American Writers And Artist Inc frequently to ensure that no new laws have been passed regarding copyright or trademark infringements.
It astounds me the number of websites and marketing ads that promise unobtainable results due to their products. Perhaps the most abused clientele are those attempting to purchase weight loss diets, pills, and exercise equipment. An example of this would be using false testimonials in advertising.
Copycatting Isn’t Only for Serial Killers
Anyone who has ever watched a crime show eventually sees an episode about a copycat serial killer. It’s inevitable. Now, I’m not saying that those in marketing that copy other people’s work are perpetrating as severe a crime, but nonetheless, it is a crime (and like all copycat serial killers, they will get caught).
It’s a simple concept to grasp. It was cheating to copy a friend’s homework in school, and it’s cheating to copy someone’s marketing work in the real world.
Just because someone else was successful using an idea or phrase in his or her ad copy does not allow you to copy it into your advertising campaign.
Faking It on the Internet
Possibly the fastest growing form of illegal marketing is the growth of black hat SEO techniques. This is the attempt to use hidden text, improper link building, and cloaking to raise a company’s website profile in search results.
Another illegal form of online marketing is creating fake reviews of companies and products. In a recent case, in which nineteen companies were fined for created fake reviews on Yelp and Google Local, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, stated:
“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising. When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.” Schneiderman continued “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”
Without a business law degree, it’s not always possible to know what is and isn’t allowed. Thankfully, the internet is always full of advice and answers, and there are always sites like Legal Vision that make it their goal to provide insight and solutions to legal needs.
When all else fails, remember the words of Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, “Being good is good business.”
If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong…