Pinterest: Potential IP Pitfalls for New Social Networking Trend

Pinterest, a play on words of “pin” and “interest,” is a virtual, online “pin board,” where user’s can organize and share things they find on the web. While Pinterest is attracting a loyal community of social media users, the site is also the source of some concern for those same users and owners of intellectual property.

The stated Mission of Pinterest is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting . . . a favorite book, toy, or recipe [which] can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.” According to the website, a “pin” is an image added to a user’s Pinterest “board” from either a website or as an uploaded image from a user’s computer. Users add the “Pin It” applet to their web browser, which then allows a user to add a pin (an image) by clicking on the “Pin It” button, and adding the requested pin to the user’s pinboard.

For those individuals and companies looking to capitalize on the free promotion that Pinterest offers, they can add a “Pin It” button to their webpages which looks and functions similarly to the buttons offered by other social media websites. Adding another “button” to companies’ webpages is another avenue to increase the social awareness of a brand or products. While many brand owners, companies and individuals will appreciate being “pinned” by users, there will undoubtedly be those who object.

In an effort to clarify policies and protect itself from liability for infringement, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann posted a blog entry on Friday, March 23, 2012 announcing that the website would be updating its terms of service effective April 6, 2012, including privacy policies and acceptable-use. Pinterest’s newly-adopted policies will likely provide it with the full protection of DMCA and insulate it from claims of infringement.

The bigger threat to Pinterest’s long term viability, however, could come from concerns that its users may be exposing themselves to potential liability by “pinning” third parties’ content without permission. In reality, a sure way for Pinterest users to avoid problems is for Pinterest users to pin only content they create or have permission to use. Only time will tell whether users’ liability concerns will impact Pinterest’s increasing popularity.

For the time being, interest in Pinterest will continue to grow, as will the copyright and trademark implications for the site. With offices in New York City, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Gibbons P.C. stands ready to provide counsel on this, and all other IP matters.

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