We’re getting into social media a bit late and just found out that someone else has registered our trademarked product name as their Twitter handle. They’re not using the account, but they also aren’t responding to queries from us about switching ownership. We don’t want to pay anything – after all, it’s our registered trademark! – but will cover a minimal fee. What can we do?
You are definitely not the first person to bump into this, and while it’s difficult when you’re a celebrity and find someone else has registered your name for a parody, satire, or even just to confuse the market, it’s even more frustrating when you have a registered trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The point of registering it, after all, is to reserve its legal use to you.
Turns out that Twitter has a specific trademark violation policy and even documents it on their site (though it’s not easy to find). Check it out: Twitter Trademark Policy.
Before I explain what’s involved, I’ll note that the issue of people stealing celebrity identities is the main reason behind a Verified Twitter account. I don’t have one, but fortunately I grabbed @DaveTaylor early enough that it wasn’t already in use. Then again, I’m also not a verified account so some other Dave Taylor online could be confusing the social media world by having them follow me instead of them.
Back to registered trademark violations, however.
It’s worth quoting Twitter’s policy on this before you get too enthused about regaining ownership of a contested account: “Using another’s trademark in a way that has nothing to do with the product or service for which the trademark was granted is not a violation of Twitter’s trademark policy… Twitter usernames are provided on a first-come, first-served basis”
If you do want to report a trademark violation, you’ll need your trademark registration number and registration office, along with a variety of other information. To get your registration number, search for your trademark at the USPTO.GOV or appropriate other trademark agency. For example, “Ask Dave Taylor” is a registered trademark and my registration number is 3601636.
Got all the info they need together? Great. Print out their Trademark Policy information page, follow the steps specified, then open up a problem ticket with their support team.
Good luck and let us know how it goes!