The Facebook Trademark Situation


Here’s the gist on this from what I can ascertain: Businesses now have the option of acquiring — or trademarking — their Facebook username — as in www.facebook.com/mybusiness. However, it seems you have to have 1,000 fans in order to be able to do this. As far as the Chamber is concerned, we’ve been more active with our Facebook group than our fan page (which was only recently constructed), so we have a staggering 3 fans. So, you know, almost there. Anyway, the New York Times recently reported on the matter, and you should know about it — even if you can’t do anything about it (yet … or ever):

Companies are feeling just as much anxiety over the online name game. RCN, a cable and telephone service based in Herndon, Va., submitted a request last week to Facebook to secure facebook.com/rcn. But then Facebook said companies would need to have more than 1,000 fans on their pages to be eligible for the custom address program. RCN’s recently created page had 527 fans as of Wednesday.

RCN executives say they are frustrated with Facebook’s rules and are worried that they could lose what they suspect could be valuable real estate. Possible competitors for the address include people and organizations with those initials, along with the dreaded squatters.

“This is a new world that we are having to step into in order to protect our brand, and they did not give us a huge window of time to prepare for it,” said Ashlie Ellison, a Web producer for RCN.

Social media sites give companies new ways to promote their brands, said Howard H. Weller, a trademark lawyer at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in New York. But he added that “these are all new avenues for abuse, and it’s more resources trademark owners need to devote to policing and enforcement.”

The Facebook Web addresses in particular could be worth nothing — Facebook has said they will not be transferable, although users could quietly hand over the passwords to their accounts.

But digital squatters are still trying, creating potential headaches for companies. For example, Dell grabbed facebook.com/dell, but Jeremy Fancher, a student at Washington University in St. Louis, registered facebook.com/dellcomputer and plans to try to sell it. A Dell spokesman declined to comment.

“I think it would be sort of funny if another computer company buys it,” Mr. Fancher said. “It all illustrates how murky the water is when signing up for these accounts.”

I guess the moral is: You should register your business’ Facebook url to protect your trademark. But for most of you, there’s no real way to do this.

Social media: Catch the wave.

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