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Twitter names and trade marks

March 11, 2011

How safe is your twitter account username? Today I discovered that Twitter transferred the account #girlgeeks to the trade mark owner of the name even though the latter had only registered a logo mark incorporating the words (see image) a year ago.  A logo mark does not give exclusive rights over the word mark.

What’s more, the original account holder had used their twitter account for 2 years.

Twitter’s rules stipulate some uses of the service may be considered trade mark infringement, allowing a trade mark owner to recover the username. Where there is a clear intent to mislead others through the unauthorized use of a trademark, Twitter will suspend the account and notify the account holder.  If this is not intentional, the infringer has an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion to avoid losing the account (see Twitter’s trade mark policy).

In this instance Twitter seemingly took the side of the trade mark owner and considered there to be a clear intent to mislead others, as according to the blog piece the original owner was simply given notice that her account was to be changed (from #girlgeeks to #girlgeeks_ That is adding an underscore after geeks). Interestingly the trade mark owner herself was surprised with Twitter’s actions as she had hoped to mediate the issue with the original owner.

If this is indicative of Twitter’s general approach then a preference is clearly being given to registered trade mark owners. In light of this Members of the Twitterati or newcomers should always consider doing a trade mark search on their username to assess any potential risks to their account.

As trade marks are territorial and Twitter is international, it will be interesting to see how Twitter would deal with a situation where two different national trade mark owners were battling over a username?