social networking

My Trademark is Being Used As A Twitter Handle. Now What?

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Patrick Lewis contributed to this post.

What can I do if a Twitter-squatter creates a username using my registered trademark and holds it for ransom?

Twitter’s Trademark Policy

Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation.
— Twitter Trademark Policy

If you have a U.S. federally registered trademark, you have options for securing the Twitter handle. Twitter’s policy prohibits third parties from using a third-party federally registered trademark as a username if the third party is using the account in a misleading or confusing way. Be aware that not every handle that is identical or similar to a registered trademark is a violation. There may be “fair use” factors that come into play in the instance of fan usage and parody.  

To file a trademark claim with Twitter you’ll need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • Is someone impersonating my brand
  • Is someone infringing my trademark
  • Contact information for the brand owner
  • Your affiliation/relationship to the brand owner
  • The trademark registration numbers
  • The third-party Twitter handle
  • How the third-party is impersonating or infringing the trademark

Twitter’s Inactive Account Policy

Waiting may pay off in acquiring a Twitter handle. An account is deemed inactive when the user has not logged onto the account in over 6 months. When an account is removed, the username is up for grabs. However, it is difficult to tell if an account is active or inactive since activity is based on logins and not tweets.

Twitter’s Anti-Squatting Policy

If you receive a solicitation to purchase a Twitter handle that is the same or similar to your federally registered trademark, contact Twitter.  Twitter’s anti-squatting policy protects against “Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.”

Twitter evaluates the following factors in a “squatting” claim:

  • the number of accounts created;
  • the creation of accounts for the purpose of preventing others from using those account names;
  • the creation of accounts for the purpose of selling those accounts; and
  • the use of third-party content feeds to update and maintain accounts under the names of those third parties.

Twitter will not release squatted usernames except in cases of trademark infringement. It’s worth noting that Twitter may require proof of an attempt to sell a username in order to enforce its policy.

Practice Pointer

As your company or clients develop new brands, check across the social media platforms to see if the handle/username is available.  This can be performed as part of a trademark knock-out search. If the brand name is clear, then secure the social media handle/usernames.  An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure – or the hassle of trying to secure the Twitter handle after the fact.

 

 

 

Co-Branding Your Film or Product Launch - Getty Images and FOX join forces

02-25-15 © UnfinishedBusiness_StarStock

02-25-15 © UnfinishedBusiness_StarStock

When you relate to a film, TV show or product, you are more likely to buy the item and recommend the product. In a great twist on marketing, Twentieth Century Fox has teamed up with Getty images to launch a line of stock photo images featuring the characters from the new film Unfinished Business. And, the photos are free to use for editorial purposes.

In the ramp-up to the film's launch, it may be hard to measure the return on investment of the "free" publicity from this co-branding relationship. The stock images are showing up all over the press as the initial 4 of 12 photos have been posted.

In any co-branding or marketing agreement, make sure to spell out what each party is required to pay for and who owns any intellectual property.

Fox seems to be taking a co-branding and marketing tip from Paramount in their marketing for Anchorman 2 in 2013.  In 2013, the Anchorman 2 marketing machine made deals to takeover the MSN and Huff Post websites as well as creating a user generated content social media frenzy.

How do you know what brand is the right fit for co-branding and helping to launch your new product or service? For an unknown or new brand, you have to know and understand the value you bring to the table before seeking out co-branding opportunities. Think local. Maybe there's a perfect relationship between a new restaurant and local micro-brewery. Consider what your consumers like to do, where they go, what they eat. If you can't reel in the big national fish, there's a good chance building a marketing relationship with a local business might just be the place to start.

In any co-branding or marketing agreement, make sure to spell out what each party is required to pay for and who owns any intellectual property that might be created as part of the relationship. Each side should be diligent in making sure their trademarks are properly and consistently used.

Vince Vaughn may not be your next spokesperson, but keep an eye out for a natural business relationship in your area.


Top 2014 Entertainment, Trademark & Copyright Law Blog Posts

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Do I Need A Facebook Disclaimer?

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Have you noticed your friends posting a disclaimer on Facebook saying it will protect their rights? Do you need one? Does it work? Post updated September 28, 2015.

Do I Need a Disclaimer?

If you want to control your intellectual property, think twice about what you post on social networking sites.

Hate to tell you that nothing you post on Facebook or any other social networking site will override or negate the terms and conditions you agree to each time you post on that particular site. It is important to read all the updates to the privacy policy and terms and conditions of each social networking site. I've written more in depth on the topic at this blog post.

While it sounds like a good idea to post something like this on Facebook:

Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information, I state: at this date of November 27, 2014, in response to the new guidelines of Facebook, pursuant to articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data drawings, paintings, photos, video, texts etc.... published on my profile and my page. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times.

It actually does nothing to change what Facebook has the right to do. In fact, there is no "code of intellectual property" that I am aware of in the United States.

Think Twice Before You Post

If you want to control your intellectual property, think twice about what you post on social networking sites. The current Facebook policy as of January 30, 2015 allows the following in relationship to intellectual property:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

If you don't want Facebook to have the potential of using your IP, then don't post.

Feel free to contact me if your company needs assistance developing a social networking policy or a better understanding of the terms and conditions for the various social networking sites.

We like to be social. So, please use the share links below to re-post.

 

Image CC2.0 Robert Couse-Baker

Denton Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett Guest On Marketing Podcast

Texas trademark lawyer Tamera H. Bennett joins host Nick Augustine on the LawTalkRadio Podcast and shares tips for marketing and branding firms who want to avoid trademark pitfalls and lawsuits.

Topics covered in the 30 minute interview:

  • Tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to practice trademark law;
  • Describe a typical client and the trademark services your firm provides;
  • For marketing and branding firms, what are some trademark pitfalls?
  • What can happen if a creative firm/client gets sued for TM infringement?
  • How do you help trademark owners learn how to leverage their marks?
  • Do creative firms frequently use trademark lawyers for their client work?
  • Are there any resources you recommend to people who want to learn more?

Tamera H. Bennett is a wife, mom, lawyer, mediator, blogger, podcaster, and legal writer. With fifteen years in law practice, Tamera guides clients in licensing of materials to and from third parties. In addition to music licensing, trademark application prosecution and trademark licensing agreements, Tamera advises clients on co-branding, product placement, endorsement and sponsorship agreements. 

Bennett Law Office, PC , 132 West Main Street, Lewisville, Texas 75057, Phone: (972) 244-3210, Website Link

Sponsor: Members’ Choice Federal Credit Union on Unicorn Lake Boulevard.  You may be eligible to join if you live, work, worship or attend school in Denton or Argyle, Texas.

Learn more about Nick and Lone Star Content Marketing by clicking here.

How A Short Story on reddit Might Nix Your Next Book Deal

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You publish your story, script, song or treatment on reddit, Facebook or Twitter and low-and-behold, a producer reads it and wants to sign a contract for the exclusive rights to what you wrote. Sound far-fetched, yet it happened with !@#$ My Dad Says in 2009 and again in 2011 with Rome, Sweet Rome.  And, Nathan W. Pyle has a 2014 New York Times Bestseller that started from a series of animated GIFs he posted on reddit.

Why would a book publisher or tv/film producer want to pay you for an exclusive right to reproduce or distribute your content if they will have to compete with someone that has the non-exclusive right to do the same thing?

In July 2014, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell released a short story 140 characters at a time on Twitter.  And, Mitchell did this with the consent of his book publisher.

Is it possible the non-exclusive license you grant the social networking site when you post your story could some how keep you from getting an exclusive deal? That's the question author James Erwin and Warner Bros. pondered when Erwin signed an exclusive deal with Warner Bros. arising from several short stories Erwin posted on social sharing site reddit.

Reddit's Current User Agreement (May 15, 2014) states:

You retain the rights to your copyrighted content or information that you submit to reddit ("user content") except as described below.

By submitting user content to reddit, you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform, or publicly display your user content in any medium and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so.

In short, reddit has the ability to do anything they want with what your post, so long as reddit doesn't claim an "exclusive" right in your content.

And from Twitter's User Agreement (September 8, 2014):

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

Tip This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.

It sure does sound like Twitter can do anything they want with your content. Yet, there's this little "tip" sentence that says we just want to let the rest of the world see your Tweet. But, does that sentence somehow narrow the grant?

Here's what Facebook (November 15, 2013) has to say:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

That language really makes me think Facebook can do what they like as well with my content. It is interesting that Facebook doesn't mention text/written words, but specifically mentions photos and videos. With sufficient originality, the words you share on Facebook may also have copyright protection.

So what's the big deal if the social networking sites can grant a non-exclusive license? There are a few issues, actually.  1) Why would a book publisher or tv/film producer want to pay you for an exclusive right to reproduce or distribute your content if they will have to compete with someone that has the non-exclusive right to do the same thing?  The non-exclusive license(s) may devalue your exclusive rights.  2) You may being losing control, little-by-little, over your content. Tracking down possible infringers becomes more difficult when you don't know who granted a license and when.

At the end of the day, it boils down to risk-tolerance. Is the risk that you might lose some control more powerful than the potential gain of the deal you've always dreamed of?

You might also like the post by Texas media and copyright lawyer Tamera Bennett, "Do I Need A Facebook Disclaimer?"

2010 Social Networking Legal Issues: Be Careful What You Tweet

I had a fantastic time chatting with the Women's Section of the Tarrant County bar on some of the 2010 top legal cases that were based on social networking snafus. The article I wrote highlighting social networking and issues such as defamation, right of publicity, criminal law, jury selection, smart phones in the courtroom and lawyer advertising is found here.

If you click here, you will go to my Delicious page with tags to news articles that we discussed.

Social Media Marketing Workshop In North Texas

Women Business Owners of North Texas is hosting a Social Media Marketing Workshop on Wednesday, September 14 from 11 am to 2:30 pm at The Pourhouse Sport Grill located at 3350 Unicorn Lake Blvd., Denton, Texas. Click here to RSVP.

11:00 - Registration

11:15 - Session One: The Real World of Social Networking for a Small Business

In this session, we'll explore

  • The best social media tools and the advantages of using them
  • Being consistent, yet unique - defining your brand and carrying it across the channels

12:00 - Lunch and Panel Discussion

During the panel discussion, we'll answer audience questions as well as questions submitted through our survey.

12:45 - Session Two: Blogging and Microblogging

In this session, we'll explore

  • Setting up a WordPress blog
  • What blogging is and what blogging is not
  • 10 things to consider when blogging- structure, content, etc.
  • Microblogging, a quick definition

1:30 - Break

1:45 - Session Three: Making it work in the Real World

In this session, we'll explore

  • Time management
  • Tools for using your social media tools effectively

Our goal is to help those in attendance get answers to their questions and increase their level of knowledge about such topics as blogging, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. What should you participate in and why? How do you go about doing it?

Plan to be with us and invite anyone you know who may be interested in joining us for this extended meeting event. And the good news is that we are offering the workshop at the regular luncheon cost: $15 for members and $20 for guests with timely reservations.

RSVP by Thursday, September 9th, for a timely reservation. After that date, add $5 to the meeting cost, i.e. $20 for members and $25 for guests.

Speakers

Tamera H.  Bennett, Bennett Law Office, PC

Louellen Coker, Content Solutions

Kristy Nolan, Southwest Airlines

Heather Steele, Blue Steele Solutions

Podcast: Entertainment Law Update Episode 13

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headphones

Lucky Episode 13 of the Entertainment Law Update Podcast with hosts  Los Angeles based film lawyer Gordon P. Firemark and Texas based music lawyer Tamera H. Bennett is available here. Gordon and I had a lot of fun this month discussing multiple topics including:

Justin Bieber's Twitter "prank" Judge Gertner's recent opinion in Sony v. Tenenbaum Child labor laws and the production of "Kate Plus 8" Fleeting Expletives Don Johnson/Alan Ladd, Jr./Celedor -- Profit Participation Wins

Take a listen to stay up-to-date on film law, music law, copyright law and trademark law.

Dallas Surgeon Raises Social Networking Defamation Claim

posted by Tamera H. Bennett Dallas eye surgeon Dr. Boothe (Boothe Eye Care and Laser Center), is asserting a patient's statements online may be defamatory in nature and should be removed.

The patient was unhappy with the results from her eye surgery and posted her complaints online.  Dr. Boothe now plans to take a pre-litigation/investigative deposition to determine what, if any evidence, there might be to bring a defamation lawsuit against her.

Attorney Tamera Bennett Interviewed on CW33/Dallas Today

Tamera Bennett interview w Gisella Phelps
Tamera Bennett interview w Gisella Phelps

Intellectual property lawyer Tamera Bennett was interviewed today by reporterGiselle Phelps/CW33 regarding the proposed social networking policy for the Lewisville Independent School District (LISD). The news broadcast will air at 5pm and 9pm CST, today, June 10, 2010.

More about this trending topic can be found at the Dallas Morning News website here.  To view the interview click here.