Trademark Protection Guide: How to Cover All Your Bases on Social Media

Trademark Protection Guide: How to Cover All Your Bases on Social Media

Any savvy brand will have digital marketing initiatives that span across at least one or two of the top-ranking social media platforms. Besides following some basic trademark best practices, does your company know how to protect its intellectual property (IP) on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other channels?

If not, consider .SUCKS your guide. This article will go over some trademark protection tips for some of today’s most commonly used social media platforms.

First, Some General Tips for Trademark Protection

There are some steps you can take to prevent and respond to the unauthorized use of your IP no matter where it pops up:

  • Claim your company’s handle on any social media channel that you may want to use. It’s also a good idea to snag additional handles or domains that could be used to bite you in the butt later.
  • Write to the account or individual in question using the platform’s messaging system or directly via email (if publicly available). For all you know, it may be a simple misunderstanding, so politely ask for the content to be removed before escalating any further.
  • Report the account using whatever forum is available on the platform. Most social media sites are happy to help trademark holders in this regard.
  • Have your legal representative craft a cease and desist letter for the account or individual in question. This may be enough to scare them off.
  • Never be afraid to take legal action, when warranted. IP law is based around a “use it or lose it” mentality. If you don’t take action in every instance, it gets harder and harder to do so when it counts.

Now, let’s get into the particulars for some of the most popular platforms.

Twitter

Twitter app logo on mobile phone

Problems Brands May Face

  • Fake accounts made maliciously (including trolls)
  • Real-looking parody accounts and fan accounts
  • Finding a username for your brand that isn’t already claimed

Solutions

Twitter’s trademark policy states that “using another’s trademark in a way that may mislead or confuse people about your affiliation may be a violation.” This means that people can’t pretend to be your brand. Use this to your advantage and report unsavory accounts that may be impersonating you.

Trademark infringement can be reported on Twitter using its support forms. Keep in mind, however, that clearly labeled parody and fan accounts are considered fair use.

Facebook

Problems Brands May Face

  • Fake accounts that spread fake news
  • Pages and ads selling counterfeit goods

Solutions

While you can report trademark violations, Facebook takes more of a “dog-eat-dog” stance toward the issue. This means third parties often end up duking it out themselves without the platform acting as referee. If this happens to you, refer back to the advice at the top of this article.

Don’t forget to fill out all relevant account information on your profile to differentiate yourself from malicious parties that may not have those details.

Instagram

Group of friends using phones

Problems Brands May Face

  • Cheap knock-offs stealing ideas
  • Unofficial affiliation with influencers

Solutions

Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you may come across some similar problems on this platform. Start by reading its trademark policy and keeping its trademark report form bookmarked. If you’re having issues with copycats, be sure to apply for account verification so your customers know you’re the real deal.

If someone is stealing your product ideas, it’s best to refer to the general tips we shared above, as Instagram customer service is less likely to get involved.

Pinterest

Problems Brands May Face

  • Reposting without credit
  • False attribution of credit

Solutions

Pinterest is, ultimately, a platform for sharing cool stuff you found online. It can be a good thing if your product is uploaded by an independent user…so long as they give you credit/attribution and link back to your website. Familiarize yourself with Pinterest’s trademark policy and keep its reporting form (or trademark@pinterest.com) handy.

The good news is that if you flag a product as your property that was incorrectly attributed, it will be removed from all boards across the platform—not just the user’s who uploaded it.

YouTube

Problems Brands May Face

  • Use of trademarked music in monetized videos

Solutions

YouTube swings waaaay in favor of the potential copyright holder. All you need to do is claim that a video illicitly uses your IP and the platform will strike it. Penalties range from the offending YouTube account being banned to the IP holder receiving some of the monetization rewards of the video.

That said, don’t abuse this privilege! Many content creators are pushing back against YouTube’s seeming bias toward big businesses like Sony and Universal. And those big businesses are taking a reputation hit.

The Takeaway

Be sure to cover all your trademark and IP bases on social media before you settle in for the long haul of digital marketing campaigns and community outreach. When you’re fully protected, you’ll find it much easier to engage with your customers on any of these platforms.

Learn from the big intellectual property disputes that came before you, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Photo Credits: Bloomicon / Shutterstock, spaxiax / Shutterstock, fizkes / Shutterstock