Yesterday I wrote about the new Facebook usernames that go into effect tonight. The new system allows users of the social networking site to replace the random set of numbers associated with their profile with a name or set of words.
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. Facebook will also not allow users to sell or transfer their usernames,
a move the company hopes will eliminate cybersquatting. The site is
also setting up a disupute system so that trademark owners can
challenge any reservation of their protected mark.
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.
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.
See Also: 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)