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In Hot Water?

Take a closer look at your marketing materials, or you may get burned.
September 1, 2004

Do you promote client testimonials on your Web site, overnight delivery in banner ads, or other companies' trademarks in newsletters? These techniques aren't illegal, but the way they're used could get you into legal trouble.

Today's hot buttons in Internet marketing law include copyright usage, privacy rights, trademark usage and order fulfillment, according to Douglas Wood, a partner of New York City law firm Reed Smith Hall Dickler and author of Please Be Ad-Vised: The Legal Reference Guide for the Advertising Executive.

"The rise in Internet fraud and unethical marketing practices is creating more aggressive legal action to protect consumers," says Wood. "Companies are also more vigorously protecting their brands online. More than ever, responsible Internet marketers need to make sure they're following the law."

Wood offers the following Internet marketing guidelines:

Competitors who use a trademark owner's marks and confuse consumers are at risk of trademark infringement and possibly a lawsuit. If you clearly compare your product to a competitor's, that's legal-provided the comparison is truthful. However, redirecting your competitor's consumers to your site without clarifying that you're not the trademark owner is a big mistake.

Re-evaluate these techniques, if you're using them. Also consider reviewing the marketing tactics of your partners and competitors to ensure your company is protected from their efforts as well. Legal sites such as Adlaw, Adlaw by Request, and FindLaw are helpful resources.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.