For law firms, this creates a great opportunity to spread the firm brand into areas it might not have reached yet. It also creates some concerns when trademarks are involved. Unlike LinkedIn and MySpace, two social networks that already offer personalized usernames, Facebook is giving users the option to reserve certain protected names so that no unauthorized person or group can claim them. In order to reserve the names, the marks must be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.
This might not resolve every problem, however, according to an article just published by intellectual property attorneys at Morrison & Foerster. The attorneys point out that there is no indication of how Facebook will process and resolve disputes over usernames, so no one can be sure whether or not they will actually be able to reserve their mark.
Still, it's encouraging that Facebook is at least considering trademark issues in its switch to personalized user ids. Social networking can be a very effective marketing tool, especially for solo practitioners or small firms, so it's nice to see Facebook building trademark protections into the new system.
Trademark Protection and Facebook User Names (Huffington Post)
Facebook Gives Trademark Owners Chance to Block Infringing Vanity Addresses (TechLaw)
Good News: Small Brands Can Get Custom Facebook URLs Too (Mashable)