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Hashtags Can Qualify for Trademark Protection

The Wall Street Journal recently posted a story about how companies are increasingly seeking trademark protection for hashtags. Hashtags are used on the internet, particularly social media, as a method of communication and information sorting. On some sites, such as Twitter, a hashtag is clickable and will sort all messages pertaining to a certain topic. On other sites, it is simply a popular form of slang. It is also a major branding device. If you have any questions about social media related trademarks in Florida, please contact an experienced West Palm Beach trademark attorney for legal assistance.

Why Trademark a Hashtag?

The Wall Street Journal story references the hashtag “#sayitwithpepsi” for which the PepsiCo received trademark protection last year. The reason why Pepsi, and other companies, register hashtags is similar to the reasons why companies seek trademark protection for other types of slogans and brand associated phrases. A hashtag with trademark protection offers several key benefits, which include:

  • Brand recognition: Your trademark can become instantly recognizable. For example, with a single simple swoosh symbol, Nike is able to instantly evoke the images of their products in the minds of their consumers. That trademark is synonymous with their brand; it creates immediate recognition and provides substantial value.
  • Social media communication: Social media can provide a more intimate form of communication between a company and their customer base. Hashtags, in particular, are trendy on social media. A strong social media presence, along with effective social media communication, can help companies build significant brand value. Getting trademark protection on a hashtag, or any other social media based brand signifier, can help get your brand get in front of your desired customers.
  • Protection of your brand: Unprotected hashtags and other forms of phrasing can be used by anyone. A competitor could potentially use an unprotected phrase to their benefit. Confusion amongst consumers can occur. This could compromise your brand’s image and dilute its value. Trademark protection can prevent competitors from taking advantage of your brand’s customer goodwill.

Does My Hashtag Qualify for Trademark Protection?

  • Is it distinctive? You can only get protection if your proposed trademark is distinctive. To qualify as distinctive, your proposed trademark must immediately make target customers think about your specific company. For example, if I wanted to trademark the hashtag ‘#buygreatshoes’, my application would almost certainly be denied. That phrasing is far too generic, and it does not bring to mind the images of a specific brand.
  • Does it have a commercial purpose? Fundamentally, trademark protection is about furthering a business purpose. You cannot trademark a phrase that you simply enjoy. In your trademark application, you will be required to demonstrate a legitimate, and existing, business purpose that your proposed trademark will protect. If there is no commercial purpose, your trademark application will be denied.

Contact An Experienced West Palm Beach Trademark Attorney

The experienced trademark litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP can help your business resolve any trademark issues. If you have any questions about social media and trademark protection, please contact our West Palm Beach office today at (561) 855-7575 to schedule a free legal consultation.

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