Yes, your trademarks are protected by common law. And I know I’ve mentioned a time or two why registration with the USPTO is a good idea. While I stick by my previous statements about the benefits of registration, an event this week with a client has inspired me to put this article together and give you yet another reason why registration of your brand’s trademarks is so very important. The invention of the internet, the rise of our global economy, and the ease with which businesses can connect with clients through social media has spurned a whole new set of issues for unregistered trademarks.
The Rise of Fake Accounts
As our lives become more and more influenced by our time spent online, how we do business has followed right along with the evolution. Businesses no longer just have a website you visit to view, learn more about, or purchase a product or service. Third party websites such as Amazon exist so you can find all of your favorite items in one spot! Businesses have also taken to social media to build trust, and interact with their consumer base. Admit it, if you can’t find them on Instagram you’re a little hesitant to make a purchase.
But all of this interaction, ease of use, and new opportunities for businesses have their downside. The doors for trademark infringement have been blown wide open. It is extremely easy for anyone with an email address to hop on to one of the social media platforms and set up an account. This account might be confusingly similar to your business name, or worse be your business name before you’ve had a chance to grab the handle. And now, maybe this account is linked to a site that sells your items without your permission. Or, maybe they’re not selling anything but using the goodwill of your brand to create a false association from which they can profit. Not only does this fake account confuse the consuming public, and take business from you, but they may do things that reflect poorly on your business and if the general consumer thinks your business is associated with this fake account it’s going to be an uphill battle for you prove that you’re not associated at all.
What Can you Do?
Most social media and third-party accounts (like the Amazon’s of the world) have a mechanism in place for intellectual property holders to file complaints and have these fake accounts removed. Most of the time the platform will require the rights holder to identify in their report what their trademark registration is in order to file the report. If you don’t have that registration, the platform may not do anything to help you. Or, they will require you to fill out an in-depth form that proves you are the owner of the trademark.
As in the case with my client this week, the platform has been less than helpful in having the fake account removed. Is this account using my client’s business name, logo, and referencing their product? Absolutely. But, against my best advice, this client had not wanted to register their trademarks yet…well, we’ve taken steps to fix that and will be handling the fake account swiftly. But, it would have been much faster had we already secured that registration.
If you’re second guessing whether or not it’s worth it to register your trademarks there are a whole host of reasons (see above and past articles) that you should. But, if you’re still not convinced any of this matters for you or your business send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a time to do a trademark audit and determine if registration would be a benefit to you or not!
Please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge on the given topic.