Hashtags. You see them everywhere and aren’t really sure whether you need to stake your claim or not. Here are some tips you can use to protect your brand.
A trademark serves to identify you as the originating source of goods, products, and services for your customers.
The whole reason that a trademark exists is to distinguish one brand from another, legally. Imagine for just a second if there weren’t brand names on the products that we buy every day, or if there were 20 businesses with the same name, all selling the same products or services — how would you know what to buy?
That’s where the purpose and functions of trademarks and trademark laws come into play. Trademarks exist so that if you have a name for your business, service, or products – you can prevent a competitor from using the same name. By doing that, you are able to build your brand and your identity. Exactly as brands like Coke and Pepsi have done.
What’s the Purpose of Your #hashtag?
Before you can decide whether or not you need to trademark your #hashtag, you should know WHY you’re using one in the first place.
Are you using your #hashtag to identify your brand? For instance, one of my brands, Vujà Dé Law®, is trademarked. Now if I add a # to the front of it, it can serve to identify the brand, or be used for marketing purposes.
Here’s an easy way to decide whether the purpose of your #hashtag lends itself to pursuing a trademark:
1. Write out #brand on a piece of paper.
2. Now draw a line like this between the two parts #|brand
3. If you want to make sure that NO ONE (especially your competitors) uses whatever is to the right of that line- then, you’ll want to trademark that.
You’re protecting the brand, and the # symbol is just a part of the social aspect.
3. Know the Difference Between Protecting and Sharing
A key difference is how others are using the #hashtag. Naturally, you want your customers and others that find your brand to share it, and having a #hashtag makes it easy.
What you don’t want is to have competing brands or competitors using the same #hashtag, because then customers are likely to be confused. And other brands should not be able to capitalize on your hard work and marketing efforts.
Let’s use #vujadelaw as an example again:
I want my customers and followers to use #vujadelaw to help me share my content and my brand.
I don’t want another law firm to use #vujadelaw because that is going to confuse customers and consumers.
4. What if You Don’t Know What Your Purpose is?
To help figure it out, make a list of WHY you’re using the #hashtag.
Is it to:
When you’re using it for reasons other than identifying the SOURCE of your goods and services, then it’s unlikely that you’ll need to trademark your #hashtag.
But what if your #hashtag becomes a brand?
5. My #hashtag became a Brand, Now What?
If you start using #hashtag and it becomes a brand or a product line and starts to take on a life of its own, then you’ll need to start investigate how to protect the brand and everything that comes after the #.
To get more information about the legal impact of your business decisions, follow Tamsen on Periscope – @tamsenhorton
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