Hastags – a pound sign followed by a word or series of words with no space between – are ubiquitous on social media. People use them to spark and continue conversation about various topics on social media platforms. But can they be trademarked?
Increasingly, companies are seeking to protect hashtags as trademarks. In 2015, applicants submitted more than 1,000 applications to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office seeking trademark registration for hashtags. But how does trademark work in the context of hashtags, which by their nature are meant to be used by others?
During the summer Olympics, millions of people remarked on the various events as they happened using the hashtag #Rio2016. And the U.S. Olympic Committee made news when it sought to prevent any businesses from using that hashtag on social media accounts, claiming trademark protection. The news of the Committee’s enforcement action against small businesses wishing their hometown athletes luck resulted in social media backlash and in a lawsuit still playing out.
What is a business owner to do while the courts and the Trademark office continue to grapple with how hashtags fit into the landscape of trademark law? How are you using hastags on your corporate social media? What kind of trademark considerations should come into play as you build your own brand? Watch and listen to Antigone Peyton and Jennifer Atkins discuss these issues in Cloudigy’s inaugural Everyday IP live stream episode.