Everyone is rushing to get on the social media bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I recommend using social media to promote your business as well, especially when you are starting off, but don’t forget – the law never fails to follow you.
Follow these 2 simple steps before proceeding:
1. Do a trademark search
Even before picking a name for your website, you SHOULD do a trademark search. You don’t want your website to named using words forming part of a registered trademark. Remember, registering your domain name is easy… however, if your domain name contains a registered trademark, you may be forced to take your website down. Any buzz you created with a recognizable company name just went down the drain.
2. Do a Social Media search
As you begin to promote your business using Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Tumblr; you could run in to a host of issues. First, if someone has their company name trademarked, they have the right to object to use of their trademark on your newly created Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or Tumblr page. All a trademark owner needs to do is write to Twitter or Facebook, who will then take the necessary action to help the trademark owner reclaim rights to the Twitter or Facebok page. The trademark owner may not even want to have a company Twitter page, but he definitely has the right to, given his registered trademark.
Even if a federally registered trademark does not exist, you still face the risk of a popular twitter or facebook page that was created long before you started using your company name. Until you register your trademark, you don’t have rights to these social media pages.
Register your trademark first then proceed to market your business.
A free trademark search can be conducted using the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4010:tnhit1.1.1)
You can also use Trademarkia – it’s a free service and they do a social media search for you! All you have to do is enter your proposed company name and Trademarkia pulls out different social media profiles that are currently using the name entered. (http://socialmedia.trademarkia.com/socialmedia/) Bloomberg featured Trademarkia in 2011. You can find that article here - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-31/trademarkia-upends-trademark-filing-process-angers-ip-lawyers.html
At the end of the day, Remember: your social media campaign will be largely dependent on how early you register your trademark.