E-Commerce

Starting an Online Business? We Can Help.

Nothing is more exciting than starting your own online business. One of the latest trends on the market today is giving your brick-and-mortar establishment a noteworthy presence on the web. While it is a great way to expand your customer base, creating an online business can take a lot of time, money, and resources to run successfully and efficiently. With such a large investment, it is crucial to safeguard yourself against any unanticipated legal problems during your company’s operation.

Elliott & Davis offers skilled legal experience and technical insight to helping your e-commerce business succeed. We offer a number of e-commerce related tools to help.

Read on to learn about the E-Commerce related services we offer, and the ways they can help your online business.

  • TERMS OF SERVICE AGREEMENTS

A terms of service agreement (or “TOS”), also known as a Terms of Use agreement or Terms and Conditions agreement, is a written notice of the rules your visitors must follow in order to receive the services you have to offer on your e-commerce site. A TOS is generally legally enforceable and is treated like a contract unless the rules you set for your e-commerce site are unreasonable and violate consumer protection laws.

If your e-commerce site has a valid TOS and your visitors disobey your rules, you have the right to enforce consequences for that violation. Depending on the severity of the user’s misconduct and the terms you set in your TOS, you will have the ability to restrict access or terminate that user from having an account on your website.

As an e-commerce owner, it is important to have a TOS that not only is enforceable, but is also tailored to the particular business you run. Depending on the layout of your website and the services you offer, a “cookie cutter” TOS, or one that is copied and pasted from another source, may not be applicable to your business.

  • BASIC PRIVACY POLICIES

Your online marketplace can be a helpful tool to better understand the purchasing habits of your customers. When users visit your website, you can use a number of methods to collect, store, and analyze the data coming into your website. While the analytics can be extremely helpful for insight to your user base, the FTC urges that e-commerce providers be transparent in their data collection methods. These data collection practices are often displayed in a document or separate section of the e-commerce site known as a “Privacy Policy.” While it’s not a required section of a website, it is strongly recommended you have a privacy policy on your e-commerce website to help prevent any unanticipated legal privacy battles.

A privacy policy is a list of the ways that you gather, store, and user your customers’ information on your e-commerce site. Whether you collect data specifically to allow users to sign into your online store or you sell this data to a third party advertiser, you should be open to your users about these practices. Since every e-commerce site is different, it is important to draft the one you display on your website to accurately reflect the practices that you personally employ. Our skilled attorneys can discuss your particular needs and will carefully draft a privacy policy that accurately showcases these practices to your customers.

  • SPECIAL PRIVACY POLICIES (COPPA COMPLIANCE)/span>

If your e-commerce business specifically markets goods and services to children under the age of 13, it is crucial to include employ business practices that comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”, 15 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.). COPPA was drafted to protect children under 13 years old from unlawful data collection practices. COPPA outlines specific requirements (including privacy policies and obtaining parental consent) from websites directed at children.

Under COPPA, it is required to have a privacy policy attached to a website that is targeted to children under 13 years old. While most other types of websites are strongly urged to contain a privacy policy, it is required by law for a children’s website to have a privacy policy present. If your website or service is directed to children, we can help you draft this special privacy policy and also help explain the other compliance requirements under COPPA.

  • LEGAL COMPLIANCE WITH SPECIAL GOODS

Setting up shop on the internet may be a great way to reach a wide range of customers, but it is equally easy to attract out-of-state legal troubles for failure to comply to individual state laws. Each of the 50 states have very specific laws that regulate the way goods are bought and sold on the internet. In addition to these laws, federal US laws (and international laws for businesses that ship outside of the US) govern the sale and distribution of certain goods and services.

If your online business offers the following goods for sale, it is important to retain a lawyer to determine the best legal practices for your business:

          • Firearms
          • Explosives
          • Tobacco
          • Alcohol
          • Wine
          • Animals
          • Plants

While this list is not all-inclusive, the items listed above (even in brick-and-mortar establishments) are subject to many state, national, and international regulations. We can talk with you about the individual concerns you have for offering these items for sale, and we can determine what legal precautions you must take and licenses you must obtain before opening your online business to the general public.

  • DOMAIN DISPUTES (UDRP) & CYBERSQUATTING

What’s in a name? Domain names can often be an expensive piece of cyber real estate because they are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. Due to its uniqueness, a domain name may not only act as an address to access a business’ website, but it may also act as a trademark under state or federal law.

In short, a trademark (or a brand) is something that serves as a way to identify a company. As a marketing strategy, reserving a website that encompasses a company’s trademark works particularly well. For example, users who like Nike shoes can simply type www.nike.com into their address bar and access the shoe company’s website immediately. With a proper web address, users need not take additional steps to find the company they’re looking for, and instead go straight to the source. (For more information on trademarks, please visit our sister website: http://www.trademarksmadesimple.com.

While reserving a trademark as a domain name can be a powerful tool for a company’s internet presence, what happens when a company goes to register a domain name, and can’t because the name is already registered? In many instances (and in a situation where a trademark is famous enough in popular culture), some people try to profit from putting a small amount of money into reserving the web address and then “holding it hostage” to the company for a large amount of money. This practice is known as cybersquatting and, fortunately, there is a way to thwart this practice from happening.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the authority that regulates domain names. ICANN has a special process called the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) that can help determine who the rightful owner of a particular domain name should be. The UDRP’s process mimics arbitration: a generally cheaper and faster way to settle legal battles outside of the court room. Under the UDRP, a panel of legal professionals is assigned by ICANN to hear the domain name dispute.

If you are faced with a situation where you are restricted from registering a domain name that you legitimately believe you own the trademark to, or if you have been named in a UDRP action, we at Elliott & Davis, PC can help you. Our cyberlawyers understand the legal and technical processes behind the domain name system and will offer assistance in fighting for the right to use a specific domain name.

  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SERVICES

Another essential piece to the e-commerce puzzle is intellectual property registration, litigation, and licensing. Intellectual property (or “IP”) is the term that describes the different legal rights that correspond to intangible assets. Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets are the major categories of IP that exist today.

Of the major types of IP, Copyright and Trademarks exist most prominently on the internet and are strictly enforced. Elliott & Davis, PC offers a variety of intellectual property services to help protect and regulate the IP featured on your e-commerce website. These include:

Copyright

        • Registration
        • Enforcement
        • Compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Trademarks

        • Registration
        • Enforcement

 

  • INCORPORATIONS

If you run an e-commerce website, it is good legal strategy to incorporate your business. Incorporating your online business will give you many advantages including:

        • Limited liability
        • Reduced tax exposure
        • Increased Credibility
        • Perpetual Existence
Elliott & Davis, PC can work with you to determine what type of an entity your business needs, register your business with Pennsylvania, and draft the important documents that correspond to your business structure.

Whether you’re a Pennsylvania company or out-of-state company looking to incorporate in Pennsylvania, our skilled attorneys can help. Please visit www.incorporateinpa.com or contact Attorney Eric Davis at 412.434.4911 ext 11 or at eric@elliott-davis.com for a free consultation.

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412.434.4911

contact@elliott-davis.com

425 First Avenue, First Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15219

The Hartley Rose Building