The internet in a lot of ways is like the wild wild west.
Where you would never take someone else’s art, ideas, or concepts and publish them as your own in the physical world (like in a magazine or a billboard) it turns grey very quickly in the world of social media.
Everyone wants exposure, right? So it’s perfectly ok to share their images or videos as long as you tag them, right?
And what if you are providing “commentary” on their original work?
How far can you push this? Can you, for example, use the name of your competitor in your Amazon store listing?
Can you use their name in a Google search keyword or ad?
“Looking for Coca-Cola? Try THIS brand instead… CLICK HERE.”
This is an area with a lot of misconceptions. Frankly, a lot of people are getting away with certain IP violations that they would never get away with in the physical world.
In my opinion as an IP attorney working with a lot of internet and tech companies, this IP free-for-all is coming to an end.
If you’re an internet or e-Commerce company, you need to have a basic understanding of IP protection so you don’t violate the rules AND so others can’t steal and misuse your Intellectual Property.
We’re starting to see more and more enforcement by the big tech companies like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Shopify, but this isn’t a new thing.
For example, Facebook has shut down notable Facebook pages for trademark infringement dating back to 2010.
In 2012, the popular page for the site coolhunter.com was removed for “repeated IP policy violations.”
And Facebook can be especially strict if you are misusing their trademarked names, logos, and icons.
Read this article from 2012 for more context:
This week I had an interesting call from a client in panic.
They had just received an email from Facebook letting them know that the Facebook Page for their coaching business with over 650,000 organic followers was about to be shut down for trademark infringement.
My client wondered if this maybe could be a scam because they hadn’t seen any other notifications about this on Facebook and things seemed to be fine with their page.
But they obviously were worried because it appeared to be a legitimate email.
They even asked their Facebook Ad Rep about the email and they said, “That looks legitimate, and I’d recommend reaching out to support immediately.”
So they reached out to support and received this reply.
As a side note: Here’s what to do if you receive an email like this:
You can start a support ticket with Facebook HERE.
The happy ending to this story: Everything turned out to be fine. Their page was fine, and nothing came of the scam. But it did make them wonder if they COULD in fact be violating some of the policies without knowing.
Facebook has a great resource breaking down what qualifies as infringement. This is helpful to read and understand so you can make sure YOU aren’t violating anyone else’s trademarks in the content you are posting.
It’s also helpful to know what to do if someone else violates YOUR trademark.
You can see the full resource here:
What qualifies as Trademark Infringement?
How can I make sure the content I post to Facebook doesn’t violate trademark law?
Having your URL and your social media handles isn’t enough to protect you if someone is infringing on your trademark. And claiming “editorial” or “fair use” isn’t always a valid excuse for just posting whatever you want to your channels.
The good news is that you can get solid advice that won’t break the bank. As an IP-focused law firm for startups, tech companies, and internet companies and brands, this topic is one that we’re very familiar with.
If you’d like to talk about getting an official trademark on your brand, let’s get on a strategy call and see if we are a good fit.
You can schedule a free strategy call HERE.
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