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As Seminars Evolved to Webinars Since Covid, Consider the IP Implications

The migration of in-person seminars to online webinars has become more permanent in the four years since the COVID-19 outbreak.  Be aware of the intellectual property law implications of this more permanent change.  
Considering copyright, have clear terms of use over who may access the webinar and how it could, if at all, be forwarded to others.  Track through login and verification who is accessing the webinar.  Recognize that the presenter has a copyright in the materials created, and also in the performance that is transmitted.  For an in-person seminar, unless it is recorded, the performance itself is not a copyrightable event -- a work must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” to have copyright protection.  

For any presentation, whether in-person or online, be sure to obtain licenses to use third-party materials included in the presentation.  A webinar creates greater risks.  An in-person presenter may think that not many people are going to see use of a photo or cartoon or specific creative language of another displayed in a presentation given in a hotel conference room, so the presenter may take the risk.  However, that creative work of a third party potentially becomes much more visible when it is part of an online webinar, and the owner of the work is more likely to find out about the unauthorized use.   

For trademarks, consider whether the identification of services listed in a registration at the US Patent and Trademark Office can be read to include a web-based seminar.  If a registered trademark covers “seminars,’ the PTO ought to accept evidence of a webinar as a satisfactory specimen of use. If the ID of services recites “in-person” seminars and workshops, you may need to file for a new registration to cover webinars, or use the PTO’s system for amending the registration due to changed technology, described HERE

Ned T. Himmelrich
410-576-4171 • nhimmelrich@gfrlaw. com