Social media usage has increased dramatically amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Businesses, from mom & pop stores to big-box retailers have increased social media usage as a means to connect with consumers and enhance sales.
Generally speaking, the advent of social media has provided an infinite platform for creative expression and promotional activity, from which brand owners can gain visibility and connect with a large audience base.
With this level of exposure, however, brands have increasingly become exposed and susceptible to misuse and violation on social media, particularly by competitors. It is therefore very important for businesses to protect their business names and brand names on social media. The steps below provide a roadmap to navigating brand protection on social media.
Step 1 – Identify Your Trademark
Simply put, your trademark is any sign that you use (or intend to use) to identify your business as the source of your products and services. Customers will rely on your trademark to feel assured that they are purchasing from you. Oftentimes, we limit the periphery of trademarks and trademarking to brand names. However, trademarks cover a wider scope, accounting for the gamut of signs that a business uses to distinguish its products and services from those of others. Logos, catchphrases, product names, product packaging and even hashtags are all examples of trademarks that can be registrable. Consult with an experienced trademark lawyer to help identify your businesses’ trademarks.
Step 2 – Do Your Due Diligence
Before you fall in love with and invest in a name or logo, ensure that it is free and available for your use and ownership.
A comprehensive trademark clearance search is a necessity. Such a search will uncover any registered or unregistered rights that may inhibit your ability to own a trademark and use it on social media.
Furthermore, it would not be wise to adopt a trademark that is the same or too similar to another brand in trade. Such a trademark will not be unique to your business and will not stand out in the sea of social media. You are also exposing yourself to the risk of potentially costly trademark infringement claims. Engage the services of an experienced trademark lawyer to search and clear a brand name for registration and use.
Step 3 – Register Your Trademark
Assuming favourable trademark search results, you should promptly apply to register your trademark. A key benefit of trademark registration is that it empowers you to prevent your competitors from using your trademark or a mark that is too similar.
Registering your brand as a trademark will no doubt allow for greater enforcement capabilities should there be infringement. Importantly, in the event that a competitor registers your brand name as a social media account, or otherwise uses it on social media, you may be able to avail yourself of the social media website’s trademark infringement dispute resolution process. This is also applicable to goods sold on Amazon and other popular e-commerce platforms.
There is indeed no guarantee of successfully defending your trademark through the various social media infringement processes. The fact is, however, that you will rarely be able to even access these processes without a trademark registration.
Registering your brand as a trademark is undoubtedly one of the key steps to protecting your brand on social media.
Step 4 – Secure Your Business’ Social Media Handles
You should proactively secure the social media handles for your company and brand names on all the major social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube are just a few to consider. This is necessary even if you are yet to launch your business on social media. The idea is to secure the social media handles so that nobody else can.
Step 5 – Monitor Your Brand for Infringement on Social Media
Routinely search social media for infringement.
Registering your brand as a trademark and securing all the relevant social media handles is simply not enough. Trademark owners are required to take timely and effective steps to enforce their trademarks or risk losing them to competitors. The fact is that businesses may need to designate an internal employee to periodically search the business name and trademarks on social media. Alternatively, a business may opt to engage the services of a watch company to do this.
Additionally, a business should implement appropriate internal response strategies setting forth what to do in a case of infringement. Matters such as to whom the infringement should be reported, and who is authorized to act on the business’ behalf would be included.
Most importantly, brand owners should contact an experienced trademark lawyer immediately in case of infringement on social media. Counsel will be able to advise as to the options available and the most effective response strategy.
Social media has no doubt become a lifesaver to many businesses, especially in recent times. It provides businesses and brand owners with endless possibilities for success. In the same breath, proper mechanisms, such as trademark registrations and appropriate enforcement strategies should be in place to ensure that brands are properly protected on social media.