Defending Your Brand: An Influencer's Guide to Intellectual Property Rights

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Defending Your Brand: An Influencer's Guide to Intellectual Property Rights

Jun 09, 2023

When you’re carving out a path as a social media influencer, it’s easy to get swept away in the glitz and glamor of brand partnerships and follower engagement. But imagine your brand as a shiny new car. You wouldn’t want to take it out for a spin without insuring it first, would you? Intellectual Property Rights are that insurance for your brand, protecting it from theft and misuse.

Intellectual Property (IP) Rights include copyright, trademark, and fair use laws, all of which have significant bearing on an influencer’s work. Let’s break these down one by one.

Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as music, graphics, and photographs—essentially any content you create. A report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) found that IP-intensive industries generate 63 million jobs, or 44% of all U.S. employment, showcasing their substantial value.

As an influencer, any original content you produce is your copyrighted property. If someone repurposes it without your permission, you can take legal action. Think of it like someone borrowing your car without asking. Sure, they might return it without a scratch, but it’s still your car, and they should have asked first.

Next up is trademarks, which protect brand names, slogans, logos—anything that distinguishes your brand from others. In 2022, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reported that over 870,000 trademark applications were filed, demonstrating their importance in protecting brands.

As an influencer, if you have a unique catchphrase or logo, consider trademarking it. This will prevent others from capitalizing on your brand’s popularity.

Picture your brand like a house. A trademark is the fence around it, keeping unwanted visitors out.

Finally, fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by allowing the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in specific circumstances. This concept can be a lifesaver in certain situations, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Courts look at four factors to determine whether a use is fair use. Those factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  4. The effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fourth factor—the effect on the potential market—is the most important factor. Fair use rules can be quite complex and may require legal advice to navigate. Think of fair use as a stop sign at a busy intersection. It's there to maintain order and protect everyone involved. However, just because it's there doesn't mean you cannot proceed. You just have to do so with caution.

In conclusion, intellectual property rights are not just legal jargon – they’re vital to your success and longevity as an influencer. They are the insurance that helps protect your brand, your content, and your reputation. Understanding them is not only prudent but essential, akin to learning the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel. Stay protected, stay original, and drive your brand to success.

Pfeiffer Law Corp’s core business is entertainment. The center of that core is social media. We represent YouTubers, Instagram Influencers and brand ambassadors.

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