Social Media and Trademark Law in the 21st Century: Presenting Opportunities and Problems

In the modern age, a business simply does not have the luxury of ignoring social media.  Social media allows a business to connect to a much broader market and creating greater brand loyalty through development of a trademark, however, there are pitfalls.

  • Social media allows businesses to create brand awareness of their trademarks and market their products to a wider market then ever possible previously.
  • While social media has created many opportunities for businesses, it has also created many problems for trademarks.
  • There is the possibility of counterfeiters using a trademark to sell counterfeit goods to the fact that there is limited real estate on the internet for companies who use the same name.  For example, who get’s to use the trademark “Delta” on Facebook? Delta Airlines? Delta Faucets?
  • Despite the relatively new area of law relating to trademarks and social media, businesses position relating to this area is vastly improved by registering their trademarks with the USPTO.

Businesses can engage with consumers via social media to create brand loyalty.

A new age of commercialism

At the dawn of the 21st Century, business began using eCommerce as a very real way to interact with their consumers.  They discovered that they could reach many more consumers and provide them with the ease of shopping from home via the internet. 

Over the following years, innovations in technology made the internet faster and more interactive.  Additionally we saw innovations such as smart phones and their ability to access the internet on the go.  Fast forward to today, where consumers have a multitude of options regarding how they connect to the internet to purchase goods or services.  There is the desktop, laptop, tablet, smart phone, wifi ready devise, and many more. 

Consequently, in a relatively short period we went from a society of brick and mortar businesses where (for the most part) business was done within a relatively small geographic area; to a world populated by virtual storefronts and where geographic location has lost any meaning whatsoever.

What have these innovations and the advent of social media meant for businesses?

When eCommerce started to become commonplace for businesses in the late 20th and early 21st Century it was simply enough for a company to have a presence on the internet, however, today, that is simply a happy memory.  The global community of businesses on the internet means that businesses must work much harder to obtain and retain consumers.

How is this done?  In the current fast paced world, businesses attempt to achieve that goal through the use of social media.  With more than 2.2 billion Facebook members, 5 billion videos viewed daily on YouTube, and more than 500 million tweets per day, businesses simply cannot afford to ignore social media.

From large companies to small we have seen an enormous influx of businesses engaged on social media sites.  Dell, Inc. for example has created three photo streams on Flickr, 26 pages and groups on Facebook and 34 Twitter feeds.  These include a Facebook page for “US Consumer Dell Deals,” a Facebook Fan group entitled “I support Dell for choosing Ubuntu Linux,” and Twitter feeds offering special deals to small businesses.

But Dell isn’t alone.  Many other well-known companies are pursuing the marketing opportunities offered by social media.  Ford, Target, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, United Airlines, Hotwire, CNN and even Veritas Business Law are some of the businesses on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Businesses engage with consumers through social media to create brand loyalty

Companies are recognizing that social media sites are a fantastic way to engage with consumers, develop their brand and create brand loyalty.  It gets the consumer more involved and invested in the company’s product or service.  Business has become a much more interactive experience, consequently, social media has become something that trademark administrators and companies alike must pay attention to.

While social media has provided many opportunities for businesses it also poses trademark problems for those same businesses

But while social media has been a boon for companies’ ability to engage with their customers they also pose trademark problems for businesses.  Companies are at risk of some imposter taking their identity.  Sometimes it’s a flat out theft, other times it is just a matter of limited real estate.  For example, there’s the URL  Who gets the domain, Delta Airlines or Delta Faucet?  It’s Delta Airlines, but you can see the problem.

Trademark laws relating to social media and an online presence

The trademark issues are somewhat similar, but the law isn’t.  There are clear rules and legal procedures for resolving cybersquatting and other domain name disputes.  However, technology’s rapid rate is simply to fast for the law to keep up with social media. Frequently, when relating to legal issues involving social media businesses are in uncharted waters.

Despite the uncharted nature of these waters the trademark owner’s position is substantially improved (generally speaking) by trademark registration with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through a qualified IP attorney. 

Whether you have a trademark you want to register, you have received a cease and desist or you need to send one, whether you are on either side of a trademark infringement case or you have questions relating to trademarks and social media, you will want to consult with a trademark attorney who can protect your rights.

Contact an attorney with Veritas Business Law, LLC for a free consultation.

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