Fighting Facebook “Name Squatters”
By Lloyd Jassin
What if someone registered your valuable trademark as part of their distinctive Facebook URL to suggest an association with your company, or to unfairly generate traffic for their Facebook page? Similar to cybersquatting, Facebook "name-squatting," is the act of registering a brand or name in bad faith as part of a personalized Facebook URL. This short article outlines how you can protect against registration of a Facebook domain name that is identical to your trademark, or likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception with your valuable company brand (or name).
On June 13, 2009, Facebook announced that users can personalize their Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. These unique – or vanity URLs – are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. For example, my personalized Facebook URL is www.facebook.com/ljassin. Previously, the URL assigned to me was www.facebook.com, followed by a series of random digits and letters, which resisted memorization. Like cybersquatters, who snatch up domain names that resemble registered trademarks with the goal of exploiting the confusion to their advantage, opportunities now exist for Facebook “name squatters” to appropriate your name and the goodwill associated with it.
Protect Your Brand: Claim Your Username Today!
The easiest (and least expensive) way to prevent "name-squatting" on Facebook, is to be proactive. If your company or brand does not have a Facebook account (or “Linkedin” or “Twitter” account), obtain one today – even if you don’t plan to start actively using it during the foreseeable future. That is, get there first! And, if you have a Facebook account, you should create a personalized URL today using your brand or trademark to direct Facebook users to your official Facebook page. You can easily select a personalized username for your existing Facebook account by going to: www.facebook.com/username.
Has Someone Already Registered Your Trademark?
If you discover someone has already registered your trademark (or name) for their personalized Facebook URL, in addition to legal claims you may have for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and, perhaps, violation of your right of publicity, Facebook allows you to request removal by filing this online form:
Facebook Notice of Intellectual Property Infringement
It is important to note that Facebook does not outline the steps – or amount of time – involved in processing, or acting upon, a notice of infringement. Therefore, if you find that your trademark or name has been misused as a personalized domain on Facebook, please contact us at Jassin@copylaw.com, so, we help get it removed, or suggest alternative enforcement options.