By Ruan Dickinson
1.49 billion… that is the massive number of active users on Facebook which is the world’s largest social media platform. In second place we have Twitter with an average of 316 million active users per month. Just to put it in perspective that means that an average of 21% of the entire population visits Facebook on a monthly basis. Facebook and Twitter falls within the top brands of the world and have invested countless hours and money to protect and grow their businesses to what they are today.
But what does this unthinkable numbers of active users even mean to social media giants like Facebook and Twitter? Well let me state the obvious first, it means money, power, control and an endless list of opportunities. However, (and I think you know what is coming)… with great power comes great responsibility, especially from an intellectual property perspective. These companies have to manage a massive amount of intellectual property matters daily.
As for the hundreds of millions of people permanently on these websites it creates an excellent platform to advertise your brand and to get your name out there. As such, countless businesses create profiles and post adverts on these social media platforms to attract custom and to build their reputation. However, because of the nature of the publicity, it can also be extremely harmful to your business if someone is using your name, logo or trade mark in such a way that it may confuse others. As this sort of infringement is relatively new, people are unaware of what steps to follow and of the severe damage that it can be caused to their businesses.
Therefore, if you come across any potential infringement to your intellectual property it is best to act immediately so that the reputation of your business remains unharmed. When faced with such a matter there are certain steps to follow. Firstly, when you are unsure whether or not infringement is taking place it is best to seek legal advice. Once it is established that your intellectual property rights are being infringed, you may want to consider approaching the other side directly as to lodge a complaint through Facebook as the issue might get easily resolved without going through a time consuming dispute. When the matter is being handled through Facebook or Twitter you will need to provide them with information including your company name, account, trade mark(s), trade mark registration number(s), office of registration, goods or services covered by the registration and the username of the reported account. Furthermore, you will be required to submit a declaration incorporating a description of how you believe your intellectual property rights are violated.
Once your claim has been submitted with Facebook or Twitter they will review the alleged infringing content and may take certain actions against the alleged infringing party including but not limited to, removing the infringing content, suspending the account and allowing the infringing party time to take down the reported content. The social media companies will also provide the infringing party with your full details so that they can contact you directly should they be of the view that the content is not of an infringing nature. When you are on the receiving end of a warning from Facebook or Twitter due to a claim of alleged infringement the same as above apply. You will be provided with the full contact details of the other side to counter their application which removed your content from the platform should you feel that the content was not of an infringing nature.
Due to more than 30 billion pieces of content being posted on Facebook per month and over 500 million tweets being posted on Twitter per day it is completely impossible to stop others from posting content on these platforms which are infringing your intellectual property rights and simultaneously confusing the market in respect of your business. However, a good tool to use to minimise the risk of any possible confusion is to fully complete your profile on these platforms by providing your company’s full contact details, website address, biography, all trade marks and posting regular updates on your company’s profile. By doing the latter all the people viewing your profile on Facebook or Twitter will be able to clearly distinguish between the “real business” and any infringing pieces of content being loaded onto other profiles.
Facebook and Twitter have created new challenges when it comes to intellectual property infringement and the way we deal with it. When faced with these challenges it is best to seek immediate legal advice to protect what is rightfully yours and prevent others from harming your brand in the virtual world.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.