If you’re setting up a brand to sell online for the first time, or expanding your fashion website to target different customers, there are a number of legal issues you need to consider. Learn about website building keeping all the legal policies in mind.

In this two part series article, Tahir Basheer – our legal partner specialising in fashion and media law for leading London-based law firm, Sheridans – looks at some of the key issues, including selecting your website, avoiding liability for its content, monitoring your visitors, using social media, monetising and mobilising.

Domain Names

A domain name is your business address on the internet. They help guide customers to your fashion website and develop your brand, as such they are highly valuable – they change hands for millions of pounds and many brands have entered legal disputes to obtain particular domains.

After choosing your desired name, you should consider the following:

1. Is your domain name available?

There are numerous domain name search tools on the Internet which can help you find out whether your desired name is available. If you have your heart set on a particular domain then you could consider trying to purchase the site from an existing user. For example, Facebook bought www.fb.com from the American Farmers Bureau. In certain cases, you may be able to try and seize an existing domain name that uses your prior intellectual property rights. In this case you should obtain legal advice.

2. Does your domain name infringe on any intellectual property rights?

Before setting up your fashion website, you should consider whether your domain name (or more accurately the site that your domain name will point to) will infringe on other companies’ intellectual property rights. Most countries or regions have websites where you can search for registered trademarks. You may want to consider legal advice at this stage, especially if your website targets consumers in multiple jurisdictions.

3. Is the name free elsewhere?

What is interesting is that with many customers going straight to social media and mobile apps, there are now heated legal battles around social websites and app infringements. You should search for your brand name on the major e-commerce platforms and social media sites.

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Fashion Website Content

When you create website content, one of your primary concerns should be whether you are infringing on the intellectual property rights of others. This could even happen when you sub-contract your website to a third party or use a website template. You should consider asking your providers to indemnify you against any claims of infringement for pieces of content they provide for you.

Also be aware of the issues around user-generated content. If users can post or host on your site be aware that in certain cases you have a responsibility to remove such content if it is, for example, defamatory or infringing. Put in place a policy to deal with these issues e.g. prohibiting the uploading of defamatory, infringing or otherwise unlawful content and being able to take down such content expeditiously. In addition, disclaim or limit liability and state that content can be removed at your discretion.

Data

If your fashion website collects any personal information from visitors you will be under an obligation to register with the Information Commissioners Office. Bear in mind that ‘personal information’ means any information that can identify an individual.

You need to insure that the individual has consented to their personal data being collected and used in the manner and for the purposes in question. Similarly, you should be aware that if you intend to use cookies on your site, the visitor must consent to their use. You should be wary of any negative publicity around your data policy.

Continue reading Part 2 of the Building a Website: Legal Steps

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