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Etsy Counsel Tackles Intellectual Property Rights for Sellers

Etsy publishes a wealth of information for sellers in its Seller Handbook blog posts, and this week, it tackled copyrights and trademarks as they relate to Etsy shops. Interestingly enough, it called on one of its own sellers – who also happens to be its legal counsel – to provide information for other shop owners.

Etsy’s counsel Sarah Feingold crafts jewelry and sells it on her Etsy shop. On Thursday, she posted, “Intellectual Property: 4 Key Questions Answered” on the company blog, answering the following four questions with a focus on United States IP law:

1) How Can Copyrights Protect My Shop?
2) What Can Be Trademarked in My Shop?
3) What’s the Difference Between Copying and Inspiration?
4) What is Etsy’s Role

Some of the advice she offered: “Never tag items with a specific luxury brand to illustrate the quality of your handmade jewelry. Similarly, don’t use the name of an artist who inspires you, even if your styles are similar. The same rule applies to using the title of a television show or a popular movie in titles and tags, since it can confuse buyers.” And she referred readers to a book on fan art and fair use.

Online sellers understand intellectual property rights from two sides. As copyright and trademark owners, they wish to protect their creativity and hard work- from the products they make to the product photographs they take. Many the seller has fumed over the competitor who steals their designs, descriptions or images.

But sellers are also on the receiving end of complaints from big brands that scour the Internet looking for counterfeits. Just yesterday EcommerceBytes wrote about a seller who filed a lawsuit against Amazon and Apple over takedowns and an account suspension over allegations made against him. Unfortunately Feingold didn’t broach this topic in her post.

Online sellers often feel marketplaces let them down when it comes to IP issues. Feingold explained “As a venue and marketplace, Etsy cannot make judgments about whether an item can or cannot be sold with regard to intellectual property.” She added that when there is a legal issue with a shop, Etsy’s Legal Support team privately reaches out to sellers with information.

How do you know the post was written by a lawyer? By the 61-word disclaimer at the bottom. The full post is worth reading for sellers on any marketplace or venue – you can find it on the Etsy Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.