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Steps to Take with Intellectual Property in Social Media

photo courtesy: Getty Images 

As social media becomes more prevalent, business owners are faced with numerous legal issues. What can I say? How can I say it?  Who is going to take issue with my content? As with any new opportunity, there are certain associated risks.

Many of the large social media players, such as Facebook and Twitter, have internal reporting policies where the owner of a trademark can prevent another party from improperly using a trademark. Often, looking to the internal policy of the forum rather than engaging in litigation can resolve trademark usage disputes.

The American Bar Association has a good article about brand enforcement on social media and suggests the following steps to protect your brand:

  • Register your brand. The simplest of actions can prevent a loss of time and expense in trying to reclaim your mark once someone else has registered it.
  • Have a monitoring system in place. Websites such as (checks trademark
    “availability” on social networking sites), (receives alerts when people are tweeting about your company), and (provides reports about who is bidding on keywords that tie in to your trademarks) are effective tools that can be used internally and with minimal expense.
  • Take an active role in social networking sites. It may be beneficial to create your own positive press and benefit from the viral effects of promoting your brand on social networking sites.
  • Determine your pain tolerance. What types of infringement are you willing to tolerate and to what extent are you willing to tolerate it? When will you be motivated to act? Will you send out stern cease-and-desist letters or take a gentler approach?
  • Implement an employee policy that addresses social networking conduct.

While Social Media is a relatively new area in the world of trademark law, many of the global issues remain the same. Your marks need to be protected and you don’t want to infringe on the trademarked material of others. A great place to start is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, where you can perform searches for formally registered trademarks via TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System).

Contributed by:
James T. Keig
Stephenson, Sanford, Pierson & Thone, PLC. 

The material above is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice and is not the basis for creating an attorney-client relationship. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues you may be facing.

Published on: May 29, 2014