Are Your Company Name and Trademarks Protected from Facebook Cybersquatters?
In the few years that Facebook has been operating, it has grown to become one of the largest online social networking websites on the Internet. Facebook users create accounts which they populate with personal information. Users connect their accounts with other Facebook users, usually friends or family, to keep in touch, post messages and photographs, or otherwise maintain social connections.
Facebook is not limited to individual users. Commercial enterprises use Facebook as advertising platforms and to create a closer connection between their customers and their products. Many companies also connect their company web pages with links to their Facebook pages.
Facebook has announced that from 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 13, 2009, it would offer registered users the ability to create custom usernames for their Facebook pages. These usernames may be any name or phrase that a user wishes and may include trademark names or the name of an organization or company. This is a feature that could be abused. Anyone could use the trademarks or names of others on Facebook and create content that is detrimental, derogatory, misleading, or otherwise harmful to the true owner.
If you have a trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and you wish to prevent it from being used as a username, Facebook has provided an online form which can be used to preempt any attempt by others to use your registered trademark as a Facebook username. The form must be filled separately for each registered trade mark you wish to block.
If you have a trademark that is not registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or if you are already too late and someone has already begun to use your name or mark, Facebook has provided a Notice of Intellectual Property Infringement (Non-Copyright Claim) form where you may report alleged violations of your intellectual property rights. This form is more involved and requires providing Facebook with narrative explanations of the alleged infringement. It is recommended that you contact an intellectual property attorney to assist you in completing this form in order to limit any adverse effect your choice of language may have on your ability to enforce your rights.
You do not have to be a Facebook user to be able to use either of the forms above. Even if you have no plans to use Facebook as a marketing tool, it is a good idea to preemptively prevent others from taking your name and improperly using your intellectual property outside of your control.
If you have any questions about protecting your trademarks, name, or online identity, the attorneys of MacDonald Illig's Intellectual Property & Technology Group are ready to assist you.