Act Quickly to Prevent Use of Your Trade-marks on Facebook

The social networking website, Facebook, Inc. announced on June 9 that it will allow users to personalize their URLs (web addresses) with a unique user name (ie: facebook.com/username).  As of Saturday, June 13, 2009, users can select one username for their personal profiles (and administrators can select one username for each Page).

In an attempt to deter username squatting, Facebook has put several restrictions in place: (1) only users who had accounts as of June 9 are eligible to register a personalized username (those who registered after must wait until June 28), (2) only one username can be selected per personal profile, (3) usernames are not transferable to other accounts, (4) Facebook can remove or reclaim any username at any time for any reason, and finally (5) Facebook will maintain a list of “reserved” usernames of certain trade-marks which will not be available for registration.

This last stipulation may be of particular interest to trade-mark owners.  Facebook has provided trade-mark owners with a form to submit their trade-marks for inclusion on a list of “reserved” usernames which will not be available for registration.  The form asks for a trade-mark registration number which suggests that Facebook only plans to protect registered trade-marks.  It is also unclear whether the form is intended to be used for Canadian (and other) trade-mark registrations, as well as US registrations.

Although there is also a mechanism for reporting infringement of intellectual property rights by a username that has been issued, a proactive approach is likely more efficient.   If you would like to take full advantage of Facebook’s list of  “reserved” usernames, you will have to act quickly: username selection opens to account holders this Saturday, June 13.

We should note, just to add a bit of perspective to this, that Myspace, Twitter and other social networking websites already permit personalized usernames and don’t have similar restrictions in place about the use/reservation of third party trademarks.  So far, such practices don’t appear to have led to widespread abuses or infringement of third party trademark rights.

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