A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one company from the goods or services of other companies. Trademark registration protects against identical and similar brands, providing the registered trademark owner with the legal rights to issue cease & desist letters to running businesses and oppose new applications for trademark registration. It is, however, the responsibility of the owner to monitor and challenge these identical and similar trademarks. For this purpose, trademark monitoring represents a highly recommended service, ensuring the long-lasting uniqueness of the brand.
Although the process can be a bit tricky at times, trademark monitoring offers many advantages to both new and established businesses. For example, with ongoing trademark monitoring, brand owners can:
Discover trademark infringements before opposition window ends
Avoid losing rights due to delays or a lack of response
Limit risk and gain peace of mind
Strengthen & enforce your competitive position
Track trademark activities of your competitors
Deter others from filing similar trademarks
There are many different types of trademark monitoring options that you can use to protect your brand, ranging from automatic notifications from IP offices to dedicated services. Besides the aforementioned monitoring practices, one of the most comprehensive forms of trademark monitoring includes monitoring online marketplaces, social media, and hosting domains, scanning large quantities of data in order to identify potential brand infringement attempts.
Social media plays a crucial role in the growth of any brand. At the same time, it can be a source of countless trademark infringements that can be detrimental to starting businesses. Practices such as the improper usage of tags and the reservation of usernames on social media platforms are exceedingly harmful to trademark holders. Although the risk of falling victim to fake news purveyors, cyber squatters and similar social media pitfalls is growing exponentially, most social networks offer ways to remedy such cases.
All major social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, have dedicated pages about their policies relating to copyrights, trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property, providing users with the necessary information and forms to protect their brand from infringement. Protecting brands on social media requires three easy steps any trademark owner can follow to ensure consistency in the use of their trademarks. Getting familiar with social media sites’ trademark enforcement policies is a good place to start.
As is the case with most social media sites, Facebook can't adjudicate disputes between third parties, as they cannot act on trademark reports that require an in-depth trademark analysis or a real-world dispute outside of Facebook. That's why the platform strongly encourages business owners who believe their trademark is being infringed through Facebook to reach out directly to the infringing party, or seek any resolution in court or by other judicial means. However, the trademark owner or their authorized representative may file a report of trademark infringement by completing this form.
Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities indicates that "If you select a username or similar identifier for your account or Page, we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe it is inappropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user's actual name)." While Facebook has this policy, it is unclear whether the policy takes only trademark infringement into account. For example, it is not clearly indicated what Facebook would do if someone registered a username which was a third-party's trademark but did not offer any goods or services. Technically such a use would seem to be an infringement of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, but it would not appear to be trademark infringement in the US, because there is no traditional "use in commerce" as typically defined by the Lanham Act.
Twitter does not allow the misuse of another's intellectual property, including copyrighted or trademarked content. Trademark owners or their authorized representatives, e.g. a legal representative or other representatives for a brand, can submit a trademark report through the trademark report form. Further, Twitter takes note of issues related to registered trademarks only, and pending trademarks are not sufficient to take action.
Twitter will suspend an account when "there is a clear intent to mislead others through the unauthorized use of a trademark". The policy further states that if "an account appears to be confusing users, but is not purposefully passing itself off as the trademarked good or service, we give the account holder an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion. We may also release a username for the trademark holder's active use." However, the Twitter user has an opportunity to appeal to Twitter in case the account has been suspended invalidly or based on an error.
As with other social media platforms, in its trademark policy, Instagram states that the use of a trademark is only infringing if it's likely to confuse people regarding the source, endorsement or affiliation of products or services. If you encounter content on Instagram that violates your trademark rights, you can fill out a report form. For the same reasons mentioned above, Instagram strongly recommends contacting the person who posted the infringing content directly before submitting a trademark infringement complaint.
Generally, on Instagram, usernames are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that brand owners often see Instagram accounts whose username includes some variation of their trademark. It is possible to complain about such cases depending on the context of the use of the trademark. However, Instagram policies outline that not all uses of a brand's trademark in a username can be considered an infringement of trademark rights. Using the appropriate words in a different context may not be regarded as a violation.
Once you submit a trademark infringement complaint via the online form or by email, you will receive an automated email with your complaint information and a unique number to track the status of your complaint. In addition, Instagram provides the rights owner's name, email and report details to the person who posted the content you are reporting. This person may contact the contact owner directly with the information provided.
In order for a trademark to take its full effect, it’s important for a business to continuously monitor its trademarks and take action against unauthorized use of its brand assets. Trademark watch services automate this process so that brand owners can keep a close eye on how their mark is being used without having to spend hours a week conducting manual searches. If you require help with the continuous protection of your brand in a single country, region, or on a global level, find out more about the benefits of trademark watch services.