Transfer Pricing Associates

IP Specifics for the Web Content Industry


Web content is the textual, visual, or aural content presented on websites and experienced by the user.  Web content also may include text, images, sounds, videos and animations.  Players in the web content industry come into contact with intellectual property issues on a fairly regular basis.  Everything that is put on a website, with the exception of content that is password protected, can be easily accessed and stolen by practically any user with an internet connection, making intellectual protection very important in this industry. 


When it comes to web content, the owner of a website cannot necessarily patent their website’s idea, but they can patent a novel “business method” that serves as a utility and would be considered a game-changer, such as one-click shopping.  Web content in general, however, is typically protected through copyrights. 

One problem that the web content industry may encounter is applying for patents for certain animations, such as avatars.  Patents for web content such as avatars which are created using artificial intelligence prove a challenge for web site designers, especially when it comes to having to describe the avatar in a patent application.  For one, it is hard to depict a three dimensional web-based image as a simple drawing on a patent application.  Even if the patent application does a good job at describing the uses, functions, and designs of such an item, patent law only allows for the patenting of machines used to create these types of objects (i.e. a computer) or the technological method used to create the item.  Unfortunately, only patenting a computer or technological method is not specific enough to actually legally protect an item such as an avatar, making the design and function of the avatar fairly susceptible to copycatting. 


For web content, copyrights are the best defense for intellectual property infringement.  Even on the internet, original work can be protected through copyrights.  So, when patent protection fails, or the content is too complex to describe in a patent application, the original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright.  Content that is able to be copyright-protected includes text, artwork, music, audiovisual material (including any sounds), sound recordings, and other original authorship content.  Copyright does not protect ideas, procedures, systems, or methods of operation. 

The U.S. Copyright Office in their 2009 Circular states that:

“For a claim in a computer program that establishes the format of text and graphics on the computer screen when a website is viewed (such as a program written in html), registration will extend to the entire copyrightable content of the computer program code. It will not, however, extend to any website content generated by the program that is not present in the identifying material received and that is not described on the application.  On the other hand, for all other computer programs that are transmitted or accessed online, as well as for online automated databases, the registration extends to the entire copyrightable content of the work owned by the claimant, even though the entire content is not required in the identifying material deposited.”

For online works, such as on websites, that are updated frequently, the author of the content must file a separate application and filing fee for each copyrightable revision to the online works. 



More information on U.S. Copyright guidance for web content, please visit

For information concerning international copyright guidance, please visit