In today’s web 2.0 world, it is even harder for companies to protect their trademarks. With more and more people interacting on these social media sites, we see more cases of trademark infringement. Many times the infringers are not even aware that what they are doing is illegal. For example, fans of a product or company are creating fan pages on Facebook. Their intent is to promote positive feedback and appreciation of their favorite products and companies. However, using the company name and even logos without the company’s consent is considered trademark infringement.
What does the company do? Do they pursue legal action against their loyal fans? I would recommend that the company not proceed down this course. The last thing a company wants to do is upset their loyal customers and create negative media. Instead, companies might be better off doing what Coca-Cola did when they discovered two individuals had created a fan appreciation page for Coca-Cola. This fan page had over 100,000 fans. Coca-Cola decided it was in their best interest to work with the authors of the fan page. This way they could control their brand image, yet please their fans. Had Coca-Cola pursued legal action with a cease and desist letter and then sued they would have not only created negative publicity for themselves, but could have potentially lost 100,000 loyal customers.
If you have fans that have fan pages, twitter accounts, or blogs using your brand name, I would recommend first checking the following:
- Is the fan page, twitter account, or blog positively promoting your brand?
- Does the fan page, twitter account, or blog have a strong following?
- How are these infringers using your brand name and logo?
If the site is positively promoting your brand and has a strong following, then I would say congratulations. You just won your company free marketing. In a positive case scenario like this it is better to contact the social media company to see who the administrators of the social media page are to try to contact them or just reach out to them through their social media page directly. I would recommend following Coca-Cola’s example and try working with them. Give them your branding guidelines and monitor their interactions. Guide them and let them do your marketing for you.
Now if the social media site is negatively marketing your brand, then you should look at the social media website’s tools on trade infringement. Most large web 2.0 social media websites have a tutorial tool in place to help companies protect their trademarks. Start there to find out what the website’s procedure is for removing a negative website. If this does not work, hire a trademark attorney to pursue legal action with a cease and desist letter. You and your attorney may have to sue website to get matter resolved.