Owners of viral social media handles are increasingly seeking trademark registrations to prevent copycats from confusing followers.
How do popular social media handles monetize their thousands or even millions of followers? Some ways include being paid to plug products via #SponsoredPosts, selling apparel and gear with inside jokes to followers, and other creative ways to leverage thousands of followers to actual cash in the pocket.
One of the issues of the online world and social media is that it is basically the wild west. For every popular Instagram account, there are dozens of fake accounts trying to get some of their followers and fame. One of the best ways for owners of famous social media handles to protect their brand is applying for a federal trademark registration.
There are a couple of different strategies that the owners of famous social media brands can take when filing for trademark applications. Famous social media personalities can apply for their social media handles in connection with the ways they monetize their accounts. However, they will unlikely be able to stop copycat accounts or imitators on the social media platforms themselves.
Relying on common law trademark rights, in the wild world of the internet, is a risky proposition. That is why owners of famous social media accounts should seek trademark registrations from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) whenever possible because they get additional trademark benefits not given in common law.
The best way to utilize trademark law to monetize social media accounts and handles is to seek a trademark registration for the goods or services that are offered under the account that make the account owner money. For example, does the account have an online t-shirt store, provide meetups and clinics, or offer services on a website that is often linked to the account. Based on how the account monetizes itself, a trademark attorney can help select the correct goods and services identification to protect against copycat accounts and infringers trying to ride the coattails of famous social media accounts.
For example, the hashtag #MrStealYourGrandma went viral about two years ago when a handsome and well dressed Houston grandpa posted a photo of himself with the hashtag. The owner of the Instagram account, Irvin Randle, applied for and received a trademark registration for #MrStealYourGrandma in connection with events he hosted to monetize the viral hashtag. Although the trademark registration cannot stop others from using the hashtag online, it does prevent them from hosting events or offering similar services using the hashtag.
Although the trademark registration cannot prevent people from using #MrStealYourGrandma completely on social media platforms, it can be used to prevent third parties from hosting or promoting events using the hashtag.
Another way for to productively apply for and protect a social media handle is to leverage the handle itself into a brand that provides goods or services through a website. Recently the owners of the famous @boopmynose Instagram account, with 369k followers, filed a trademark application for BOOP MY NOSE in connection with “Providing a website featuring animal photographs for entertainment purposes; providing non-downloadable online videos featuring animals for entertainment purposes; providing animal photographs through social media for entertainment purposes.” In other words, they took a popular Instagram account, started a website and now shuttle Instagram users to their website in hopes to monetize their follower base.
One of the most efficient ways to leverage social media followers into an actual business is creating a website and using the social media account to drive traffic to the website.
A third, and perhaps the most common way, to monetize social media handles with large followings is to offer merchandise for sale. For example, social media handles may offer graphic t-shirts that are sold on platforms other than where their social media following is such as on Amazon. Owners of social media accounts who want access to the Amazon Brand Registry need a trademark registration, so they often file a trademark application for their Amazon brand account that mirrors their social media handle. Owners of popular social media accounts can link to their merchandise on their social media handles to drive traffic to their online stores.
Do you have a question about how to apply for a trademark registration to best protect your social media personality or brand? Contact us for a Free Trademark Consultation today and one of our attorneys will contact you to come up with a trademark application strategy customized to meet your needs.