When Is Hyperlinking Illegal?

The Internet is characterized by the ability of Web users to move from site to site looking for information or business opportunities and purchasing goods and services. Hyperlinking and framing are two of the methods by which Web users navigate the Internet. When developing a new site or upgrading an existing site, businesses need to confirm that the hyperlinking and framing techniques they use will not subject them to liability. Thus, it is critical for businesses to be aware of the court cases that have been filed and decided in the area of hyperlinking and framing, as well as the general principles of intellectual property and tort law as those principles apply to Web navigation tools. The question of whether and when hyperlinking and framing will subject a company to liability and risks of claims have not been definitively decided; however, certain general outlines of this emerging area of law have been drawn.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

Is it likely that the use of hyperlinks and framing by a company doing business on the Internet will be found an infringement of patent rights?
Is it likely that the use of hyperlinks and framing by a company doing business on the Internet will be found an infringement of trademark rights and/or unfair competition laws?
Is it likely that the use of hyperlinks and framing by a company doing business on the Internet will be found an infringement of copyright laws?
What other theories of intellectual property or torts could be used to assert a claim relating to hyperlinking and framing?
Is it possible for a Web site to enforce an anti-linking policy that is more restrictive than the law provides?

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