Ecommerce Attorney Tips: 8 Best Practices When Starting an Online Store

September 18, 2020September 18, 2020
Ecommerce Attorney Tips: 8 Best Practices When Starting an Online Store


1. Get your copyrights and trademarks sorted.

First, make sure your primary branding assets are available in all the countries you want to operate in. Check that your name isn’t being used by anyone else or even one that’s too similar. After all, you don’t want to drive traffic to your competitor accidentally! Ensure you have an available domain name too, as this is going to serve as your online storefront. Make your name easy to remember, but ensure it’s unique.

Once you’ve picked your name, trademark it. Make sure to do this in all the markets you plan to operate in. You don’t want to be super successful in five years only to realize someone has already trademarked your name and set up shop in China.

The same goes for your logo. Make sure you get a logo designed that’s completely original and get it trademarked as well. This is your brand and you don’t want to allow others to impersonate you.

Lastly, when setting up your website make sure you’re using licensed or original images, fonts, or other assets. Just like you don’t want others taking images off your site, you shouldn’t be using photos without the artist’s permission. Make sure your licenses are all sorted before you launch your site. Otherwise, you may be dealing with a stern cease and desist letter, with threats of further action.


2. Check to see if you need a license.

Even if you’re only going to be operating online without a physical store location, don’t think you won’t be required to get a license to operate. These licensing requirements vary by location and industry, so make sure you are aware of what is required for your business before opening up.


3. Apply for “Safe Harbor” protection.

Anyone can write anything in the comments section on your blog or products page. In order to protect yourself from copyright infringement (for example, if someone puts a link to a pirated copy of the newest Marvel movie in the comments) you need to register for “safe harbor” protection. It’s pretty easy to apply for this, as you just have to submit a simple form on the U.S. Copyright website. It’s not something you may ordinarily consider when opening an online store, but it could save you from legal trouble that is no fault of your own.


4. Create a Terms page.

A Terms and Conditions or Term of Use page is really important to have for any website, but especially an eCommerce store. Here you will discuss all your policies like returns and refunds, but also what governing law your business falls under. These terms are really important because they protect you from liability. Getting a legal professional to help you draft these is a really good idea, as they will be unique to each business. BizCounsel is a good place to look for an eCommerce lawyer who can help you at rates to suit your budget.


5. Make a Privacy Policy.

Similar to the Terms page, your Privacy Policy is there to ensure you and your users are on the same page. Here you will list out what data you gather on your website users and customers, and how you manage that data. This is especially important as there have been new laws regulating data privacy in recent years, like the GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California. Depending on where you operate, you may need to have your web developer include pop-up notifications that allow your users to toggle the various trackers and cookies you have on your site. These data privacy laws are a bit tricky to navigate, so having a legal professional assist with drafting this policy is a good idea. 


6. Keep track of shipping restrictions.

Since you’re operating an online store you’ll be shipping all your products. While it might be obvious that most carriers won’t take anything illegal or things like live animals, other prohibited products might not be things you would normally consider. Some restricted items that appear on carrier lists include:

  • Aerosols

  • Dry ice

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Nail polish

  • Perfumes

It’s a good idea to check with your shipping company to see what items are prohibited. If any of your products are among those, check with other carriers as they can have different restrictions.


7. Implement Age Restrictions

When you’re running any website, you need to be extra careful about any data collection for minors under 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) spells out these regulations in detail, so it’s an important one to review.

If you’re selling any age restricted products online, you also need to implement some kind of age verification system to ensure your customers are of age. If you are exporting something like alcohol, you should familiarize yourself with the age verification laws in the other countries that you’re selling to as well. 


8. Stay on top of credit card security.

Online vendors are high targets for hackers and data breach is not a term you want associated with your business. When dealing with private financial information you need to ensure you’re implementing the highest standards and keeping your website infrastructure updated regularly. 

You need to make sure you are PCI compliant, which means not only are you using secure and encrypted methods for checking out, but that you’re also not keeping hard copies of customer financial information in your office. 


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