Taking a Business Online: IP Issues in Online Businesses and Transactions

For many years, Jane has been running a successful Canadian business selling widgets through her retail stores called "Jane’s Sassy Widgets." A few years ago, her neighbor, John, approached her with some really great and distinctive widgets that Jane had never seen before. He was not interested in marketing or selling; he only wanted to make great widgets. Jane and John decided they could help each other. John would supply widgets to Jane on an exclusive basis, and she would market and sell them. John was very proud of his widgets, however, and he insisted on calling them John’s Wacky Widgets, which Jane was fine with. After a few years of successful sales of John’s Wacky Widgets in Jane’s Sassy Widgets stores, both the widgets and the retail chain are gaining a strong reputation. Jane is now thinking of expanding her market beyond her retail store network. She wants to take her business online to reach a vast network of potential customers without the significant costs of retail store expansion. John is also enthusiastic about potentially selling more widgets. Both Jane and John are technologically savvy, but before launching their online venture, they are wondering about intellectual property issues. Are there risks to their good names, reputations or other IP that arise by taking their business online?

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