Facebook Provides Mechanism to Prevent Use of Trademarks as Usernames
A seemingly innocuous change to the Facebook service is yet another thing for trademark owners to pay immediate attention to in order to avoid a "squatter" using a trademark as a username on a Facebook page.
On June 9, 2009, Facebook announced that beginning June 13 users of Facebook may create usernames for their Facebook account. Currently, the website address for each Facebook user is a long URL containing a randomly assigned number – it is not "user friendly" for a person to manually type into a web browser. The new usernames will allow others to enter a username as part of the website address for a particular user's Facebook pages (https://www.facebook.com/username). The selection of a username is up to the user's choice, and is offered by Facebook on a first-come, first-served basis. Since a username may be anything the user might type in, the technology might permit a user to use another's trademark as its Facebook username.
As a precautionary measure, Facebook has created an online form for trademark owners to prevent their trademarks from being registered as usernames by Facebook users. This online form is up and running prior to the rollout of the new username system. Trademark owners can submit the relevant information on Facebook's online contact form, located at https://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=username_rights. The trademark owner must identify itself, enter the exact trademark text, and identify a trademark registration number. It is not entirely clear how Facebook will react to trademarks that are not registered with a government agency such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Nor has Facebook announced any policy on how it will resolve disputes over usernames that infringe a trademark where the trademark owner had not previously registered on Facebook's form.
Facebook has set up a frequently asked questions page for intellectual property rights holders, including information on how to report a username that infringes a trademark, at https://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=899.
-- Originally published in Larkin Hoffman's IP/Tech Buzz.