20 Nov #FAQ: Can I Trademark My Business’ Hashtag?
At The Brand Protected ®, we are always getting questions from business owners about how to best protected hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to get your business name out there and build some buzz. But, after all the effort you put into getting a hashtag trending, what can you do to protect it? Let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about hashtags and intellectual property:
Can I Trademark My Business Hashtags?
As a business owner with an online presence, you know that standing out online is an important form of currency. The more consumers are using and sharing your business’ unique hashtags, the more money you can make. So, in the world of intellectual property, shouldn’t business-related hashtags be protected?
In fact, yes, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) agrees. As long as a hashtag is being used to promote a business or product in a distinctive way (remember, trademarks have to identify the source of the service or product as a particular business), it is possible to make the case that a hashtag is a “mark” eligible for trademark protection. It’s important to note here, however, that this protection is limited to marks that identify the source of a particular good or service. Not all hashtags can be protected. A purely descriptive hashtag, even if it becomes widely associated with your brand, cannot be protected.
How Do I Go About Trademarking My Business Hashtag?
Just like any other trademarks, hashtags cannot be registered with the USPTO if there is a likelihood of consumer confusion. If there is another business out there doing something similar to your business and using the same hashtag, it’s likely you will not be able to get protection. So, the first thing to do is research the hashtag you want protected (as well as other, similar hashtags), as well as any trademarks out there that use similar language. Once you have identified a hashtag that is not in use by any similar businesses, you can get to work protecting that hashtag with the USPTO.
An experienced trademark attorney can be a huge help in walking you through the next steps in the process because they will be able to conduct additional research to confirm the likelihood that your trademark registration will be successful. They can then draft and file the registration application and respond to any questions or requests for additional information from USPTO attorneys.
Can I Use My Registered Company Mark as a Hashtag?
Maybe! The short answer here is yes, of course you can use your registered company mark as a hashtag to promote your business. This would be just like using any other hashtag you may choose to promote your social media posts. However, there is a slightly longer answer that involves doing some homework. If you currently hold a trademark registration for the name of your business, that’s great. That means that your business name is protected from infringement by other businesses that may cause confusion among your customers. But, having a registered trademark for your company name does not mean that you own the coordinating hashtag automatically. In order to earn protections for a hashtag that coordinates with your registered company mark, you will need to submit an additional application. Because you don’t automatically have the rights to a hashtag just because it is similar to your business name, it is important to check to make sure that another company isn’t already out there using a similar hashtag before filing your application. This will avoid any infringement issues, as well as increase the likelihood that your application will be successful.
Should I Register My Business Name as a Hashtag in Addition to My Regular Company Mark?
We think so! If you are using social media, including hashtags, to build your brand’s clout online, we do recommend talking with an attorney about registering your business name as a hashtag in addition to your regular company name mark. Not only will this carve out protections for you to prevent your name from being used by other companies, but it will also prevent those other companies from registering the mark first and prohibiting you from using it. If you are concerned about whether you should trademark your business hashtags, reach out to an experienced trademark attorney to learn more.
Do Social Media Platforms Have Policies Restricting the Hashtags I Use?
All social media platforms have terms of service that they use to govern what kind of content is shared on their sites. Each of the major platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube) include terms in their policies that restrict the unauthorized sharing of trademarked material on their sites and provide a mechanism to get infringing content removed. It is wise to check into the hashtags you use on your business accounts to make sure that they are not registered by another business.
I Have More Questions! Who Can Help Me Protect My Business’ Social Media Presence?
You have come to the right place! The Brand Protected ® and our principal attorney, Lourdes Hilliard, are experienced in working with businesses that conduct themselves online. We are able to provide you the best advice about how best to protect your business interests and prevent potential damage to your brand. Click here to schedule an initial consultation.