How to Protect a Website Design

How to Protect a Website Design

The protection of intellectual property on the Internet is gathering pace every year. More and more new cases and relevant explanations of the higher courts appear, thanks to which new case law is being formed.

On almost any website, three main groups of objects for protection can be distinguished:

  1. Design (a complex arrangement of all elements, color scheme, fonts, selection of materials, site structure), which is subject to copyright as a composite work (Art. 1260 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation).
  2. The content of the website (photos, videos, drawings), which are independent objects of copyright, protected by law.
  3. The source code and scripts of the website, thanks to which it works.

Each of these objects must meet the criterion of creativity in order to be eligible for protection. And this is where an important question arises - who and how should determine this criterion?

We found interesting explanations given by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in the spring of this year to the complaint of the copyright holder of the site, the design of which was copied by competitors. All courts dismissed the plaintiff's claim, considering that the websites were similar, but not identical. And since the criterion of similarity to the point of confusion applies only to trademarks, and the website design is a work of art that is subject to copyright, so in this case the criterion of complete identity must be applied.

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation disagreed with this opinion and indicated what the courts should pay attention to when considering similar disputes.

First, it is necessary to determine what exactly on the website the plaintiff considers to be an object of copyright that has been violated. Second, determine if it is really subject to copyright. Third, whether the right to the object belongs to the plaintiff.

In order to decide whether an object is protected by copyright, you need to establish:

  • whether the creator of the object, through the choice of the form of this object, showed his or her creative abilities in an original way;
  • is the object an original work.

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation believes that it is impossible to answer these questions without an expert examination. Thus, the court suggested that only expert organizations should resolve the issue of the presence of a creative component in copyright objects, although two years earlier the Supreme Court issued a decree explaining that “until proven otherwise, the results of intellectual activity are assumed to be creative work”.

TEAM always monitors the development of case law and is ready to protect violated rights, taking into account current changes.

If you have any doubts whether your website violates other people's rights or whether there are similar violations in relation to you, feel free to contact TEAM for risk assessment and get advice on the prospects of the lawsuit!