Protection of a website

A multitude of services rely on websites: sales sites, networks, banks… They are everywhere and are becoming essential for presenting a business: websites have a significant value. Moreover, their design often requires significant investment. It is, therefore, crucial for developers and web design companies to protect their creations.

1) How to protect my website?

A website, also known as a site or internet site, is a set of web pages connected by hyperlinks (clickable links), hosted on a server, and accessible via a web address (the domain name). A website can be protected by copyright law; however, each component also has its own protection:

  • The software behind the website:
  • Software-specific copyright

The software, i.e., the program (source and object code) and the preparatory design materials are protected by a software-specific copyright. Elements such as the algorithm and functionalities are not protected but may be covered by an unfair competition action in the event of improper use, under certain conditions.

This protection grants economic rights valid for up to 70 years after the author’s death (right to control exploitation, distribution, prohibit the use, adaptations, etc.) and moral rights (right of attribution, right to respect for the work, etc.) which are perpetual and non-transferable. However, specific exceptions exist.

One of the particularities is that copyright ownership of software created by employees is vested in the employer(unlike traditional copyright, which provides that ownership of rights is vested in the author of the work).

This protection is automatic, with no filing formalities, provided that the software is original and materialized: the author of the software must have made an intellectual contribution of his own, other than mere intellectual know-how and the technique deployed.

However, it may be difficult to prove the date of creation or who the author is. It is therefore advisable to obtain evidence to prove the date and ownership of the creation, using proof of anteriority, such as the certificate.

  • Patent:

A patent is an intellectual property title that protects a product or process that provides a new technical solution to a given technical problem. Computer programs as such are expressly excluded from this protection (Article L611-10 of the French Intellectual Property Code).

However, it is possible to patent a software that has a technical effect that goes beyond the usual physical interaction between the software and the computer on which it runs, or that is part of a broader invention that meets the conditions for patentability, although these possibilities are subtle.

For more information: software protection.

  • The visual elements of the website:

These visual elements can be protected by two types of intellectual property rights:

  • Design law: the graphic interface of the website.

The aesthetic aspect of a graphic interface, including icons, can be protected by a design right. This right protects the appearance and ornamentation of an object, i.e., the lines, contours, colours, shapes, and textures.

This right arises through registration with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). To benefit from this protection, strict conditions must be met: the creation must be new, have a distinctive, visible, and lawful character, and must not be dictated by technology.

After registration, the holder has a 5-year monopoly of use from the date of filing, which can be extended to 25 years.

However, many of the designs benefiting from design rights are already protected by copyright law. This is the theory of the unity of art: an object with a particular aesthetic, regardless of its use, benefits from copyright provided that it is original. See our article on the complementarity of these rights.

  • Copyright law: the website, its graphic interface and content (images, logos, graphics, texts, etc.).

This law protects intellectual works, which covers a wide range of creations: texts, books, drawings, music, videos, etc. The only requirement is that the creation must be original and materialized. The protection is valid for 70 years after the death of the author. It confers an exclusive intangible economic right that is enforceable against all.

This right is acquired automatically by the mere fact of the materialisation of creation, without the need for registration. Thus, most of the content of a website, for example, its images, videos, graphics, logos or texts, and even the website itself, is covered by copyright as soon as it is created, if it is original, i.e., if it bears the imprint of the author’s personality. For example, a website that is too close to a theme or framework may not be considered original. For example, a website that is too close to a theme or framework may not be considered original.

However, it is advisable to constitute proof to be able to attest the date and ownership of the creation, using the means of proof of anteriority, such as the certificate.

Also, it should be noted that the inclusion of the mention “Copyright © All rights reserved” at the bottom of the site or of an “Intellectual Property” section in the legal notice does not provide any additional legal protection in France, it only informs the public that your work is subject to copyright, to discourage potential infringement.

For more information: copyright and design law.

  • The website’s database:

The website’s database can be protected in two ways: by classical copyright and by the sui generis right of the database producer.

  • Classic copyright:

This is copyright as set out above. For databases, it protects the form, structure, arrangement, layout, and presentation of the material. Copyright, therefore, protects the form of the database.

The database must meet the requirement of originality, which is adjusted: it must be an “organised and structured collection” of information, not a mere collection of data. The associated rights and the method of proof are the same as set out above.

  • Sui generis right for database producers:

This law specifically concerns database producers, i.e., the entity or individual that takes the initiative to invest.

Here, it protects the content of the database provided that a financial, material, or human investment is made, which must be substantial, qualitative, or quantitative for the constitution, verification, or presentation of the content of the database.

The resulting rights are valid for 15 years , and renewable with each new investment. They allow to prohibit the extraction or re-use of all or a quantitatively or qualitatively substantial part of the contents of the database.

In addition to keeping any element that can demonstrate such investments, the formalities for securing these rights are the same as those set out above for copyright: proof of anteriority.

To find out more: database protection.

  • The name of the website:
  • The trademark:

The name of the website can be protected for its distinctive function under trademark law. A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods and services of a company from those of competitors. The website’s logo can also be protected as a trademark (in addition to copyright).

Trademark law grants a monopoly on the use of the trademark for the goods and services designated by the applicant. To be protected as a trademark, the name or logo must be registered with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). The trademark must meet the conditions of distinctiveness, availability, and lawfulness. Protection is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

To find out more: trademark law.

  • The domain name:

A domain name is the website’s address (Example:, consisting of the name and the extension (.fr, .com…). It is important to distinguish a company’s website from its competitors, hence identifying the company on the Internet. It allows good visibility and is part of the company’s communication strategy.

It is not an intellectual property title, but it allows to obtain some rights (access to dispute settlement, unfair competition…). To reserve a domain name, it is advisable to use one of the various accredited service providers (see the AFNIC directory). The reservation is valid for 1 year and can be renewed every year. However, the reservation of a domain name works on a “first come, first served” basis: the first person to reserve a domain name is entitled to use it.

  • The concept of the website:

Ideas are not protectable under intellectual property law. The functioning of a website remains an idea or concept and cannot be protected as such.

However, judges have been able to recognise that a concept could be protected by unfair competition law if it “constitutes an economic value, individualised and providing a competitive advantage, the result of know-how, intellectual work and investment” (T. Com. Paris, 28 September 2015, n°2014-027464, Sound Strategy v. Concepson; confirmed on appeal: CA Paris, 7 March 2017, n°15/22802). It is the result of an investment, which can be promotional, economical, intellectual, or even the result of a reputation.

Thus, the Paris Commercial Court, in the aforementioned judgment, was able to judge that that “the order process, the structure of some displays, the choice of messages, the use of actors’ voices, the payment and the delivery method” constituted the economic value of the concept of the victim’s site, for which the victim had been able to demonstrate significant investment. The act of unfair competition on the grounds of parasitism through the misappropriation of these investments could be demonstrated.

It is, therefore, advisable to obtain proof of anteriority to be able to attest the date and ownership of the concept. This is possible with the service.

To find out more: the protection of concepts.

2) How to secure my copyright with the service?

The anteriority certificate enables you to prove that your creations existed at a certain date, and that you are the author. This type of service is important, as seen above, for creations that depend on copyright, but also for securing innovative concepts and elements that cannot be protected by intellectual property.

It is, in fact, essential to obtain proof of anteriority to be able to prove that you are indeed the author of your creation at a certain date. This makes it easier to claim your copyright, particularly in the event of future copying or challenge by a competitor or in the event of a dispute over confidentiality.

The certificate of anteriority provides indisputable proof of anteriority, through the intervention of a Bailiff (depending on the offer selected), but also through the qualified electronic timestamp, which has evidential value, including internationally.

To apply for a anteriority certificate, the process can be completed online. Please visit the following address: