Merchant & Gould's Internet Law Group provides a wide array of Internet law- related counseling to clients of all sizes — from Internet start-up companies and individual entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies nationwide and around the world.
As one of the largest IP law firms in the United States and one of only a few that devote themselves solely to intellectual property, Merchant & Gould is able to handle all of the legal IP issues faced by companies or individuals that have a presence on the Internet. Our technological and cross-functional legal experience enables us to counsel clients in all stages of Internet business development — from setting up a domain to selling products in the U.S. and global marketplaces via the Web.
Specific issues our lawyers can assist you with include:
- Patent and Trademark Protection
- Co-Branding Agreements
- Domain Name Disputes / Litigation
- Online License Agreements
- Web Site Advertising Clearance
- Copyright Issues
- Digital Signature and Encryption
- Email and Internet Usage Policies
- Web Site Development Agreements
- Web Site Disclaimers
The commercial power of the Internet has led to an explosion of usage, and accordingly, an explosion of new legal issues. These new legal issues lead to new laws and first-of-a-kind litigation. Our attorneys recognize and respect that fact, keeping themselves at the forefront of the law through research and continuing education, and by frequently speaking and writing on Internet-related topics. We understand how the new laws and Internet technology affect businesses, and we work with clients to harness the full power of the Internet.
Merchant & Gould has extensive experience with managing domain name disputes, particularly on behalf of companies who are seeking to enforce their trademarks against cyber pirates. Our experts have handled thousands of domain name matters and have filed hundreds of UDRP actions. We also file federal complaints under the Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act when appropriate.
Because of the significant experience in managing these matters, Merchant & Gould has an arsenal of standard letters and forms that are used in connection with protecting brands. Our standard cease and desist letters may be modified based on the brand at issue for a variety of situations. In addition, we have developed a standard template for ICANN UDRP actions that contains customizable sections depending on the legal issues in each case. These standardized forms allow us to act quickly at a reduced cost. Moreover, because we have handled many of these matters, we understand the legal issues at stake and can focus on those issues.
In addition to handling domain name disputes, we have developed domain name management solutions for clients. Merchant & Gould performs domain name portfolio audits, develops standards for domain name registration and renewal, and works with clients to acquire domain names short of engaging in a dispute.
Merchant & Gould is at the forefront of managing brands in social networking, assisting clients in developing strategies related to the use of social networking. Some examples include: (1) assisting clients in developing internal policies related to the use of clients’ brands by employees on blogging websites; (2) working with clients’ internal technology department to develop standards for access to websites; and (3) meeting with clients’ marketing, advertising, and public relations teams to review existing online Twitter and Facebook use and recommend revisions moving forward. We also assess business plans, speak with relevant individuals, and provide insight as to the legal issues involved in various aspects of social networking.
Our attorneys enforce our clients’ marks when third parties use and abuse their brands on social networking sites. We work with social network sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger (Google) on an ongoing basis to resolve disputes. As a result we are familiar with those companies’ online tools and are able to resolve disputes quickly as a result.
In addition to issues involving the management and protection of brands, the use of social media for companies raises privacy and compliance issues. The policies and procedures must be reasonably designed to ensure that associated persons who participate in social media sites for business purposes are appropriately supervised, have the necessary training and background to engage in such activities, and do not present an undue risk to investors. With our brand management experience and our knowledge of the applicable privacy regulations, we assist our client in determining the optimal level of social media use consistent with regulatory requirements. This includes advice concerning the appropriate types of social media, content and level of interactivity, the persons allowed to participate and recordkeeping and supervision requirements.
Search Engine Issues
Merchant & Gould assists clients in managing branding issues as they relate to search engine issues such as paid keyword advertising, organic keyword strategies, and search engine optimization. We have counseled clients related to their use of trademarks as keywords in advertising campaigns. We partner with clients to assess third party use of their marks as keywords and in connection with online advertising. When necessary, we have taken action against third parties, including filing multiple lawsuits on the issue.
In addition to providing legal counseling related to the issues, our attorneys participate in the business side of these matters. Maintaining relationships with local and national vendors engaged in search engine businesses allows us to stay on top of the technical issues. Working directly with experts in the industry, including former Yahoo and Google employees, gives us the access to first-hand experience in online advertising.
General Website Matters
Merchant & Gould assists clients with general website matters. These matters include website audits, advertising reviews, and developing policies related to website terms and conditions. Our work in this area includes providing advice on simple policy issues to full blown website audits. We also regularly assist our clients in developing policies concerning the protection of copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and confidential data and information. This service includes providing counsel with respect to the protection of such information on the Internet, including counseling for clients creating or upgrading websites, blogs and web-interactive portals.
Merchant & Gould attorneys authored A Legal Guide to the Internet with the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, a book that outlines patent, trademark, and copyright issues dealing with the Internet.
Attorneys at Merchant & Gould have also worked with branded entertainment and web site advertising clearance. We have represented clients in contractual negotiations and clearance for branding, have done extensive advertising and web site trademark review and clearance, and have worked with co-branding and licensing of website use of client’s marks. Merchant & Gould works extensively with clients regarding website copyright issues, web site disclaimers, licensing, internet meta-tags and keyword advertising disputes, and website audits.
Merchant & Gould investigates third party use of trademarks to protect our client’s trademark rights. We have developed internal search protocols that identify and capture online trademark use. We have developed tools like the M&G Linker and the M&G Linker App that allow us to quickly and efficiently conduct our investigations using public and private databases. We have also developed relationships with third party vendors who conduct trademark investigations.
Internet Industry Group Chair, William D. Schultz