At the dawn of the 21st Century, business began using eCommerce as a very real way to interact with their consumers. They discovered that they could reach many more consumers and provide them with the ease of shopping from home via the internet.
Over the following years, innovations in technology made the internet faster and more interactive. Additionally we saw innovations such as smart phones and their ability to access the internet on the go. Fast forward to today, where consumers have a multitude of options regarding how they connect to the internet to purchase goods or services. There is the desktop, laptop, tablet, smart phone, wifi ready devise, and many more.
Consequently, in a relatively short period we went from a society of brick and mortar businesses where (for the most part) business was done within a relatively small geographic area; to a world populated by virtual storefronts and where geographic location has lost any meaning whatsoever.
When eCommerce started to become commonplace for businesses in the late 20th and early 21st Century it was simply enough for a company to have a presence on the internet, however, today, that is simply a happy memory. The global community of businesses on the internet means that businesses must work much harder to obtain and retain consumers.
How is this done? In the current fast paced world, businesses attempt to achieve that goal through the use of social media. With more than 500 million Facebook members, two billion videos viewed daily on YouTube, and more than 25 billion tweets sent in 2010 alone, businesses simply cannot afford to ignore social media.
From large companies to small we have seen an enormous influx of businesses engaged on social media sites. Dell, Inc. for example has created three photo streams on Flickr, 26 pages and groups on Facebook and 34 Twitter feeds. These include a Facebook page for "US Consumer Dell Deals," a Facebook Fan group entitled "I support Dell for choosing Ubuntu Linux," and Twitter feeds offering special deals to small businesses.
But Dell isnât alone. Many other well known companies are pursuing the marketing opportunities offered by social media. Ford, Target, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, United Airlines, Hotwire, CNN and even my firm of the Roe Law Firm are some of the businesses on Facebook, Twitter and even Linkedin.
Companies are recognizing that social media sites are a fantastic way to engage with consumers, develop their brand and create brand loyalty. It gets the consumer more involved and invested in the companyâs product or service. Business has become a much more interactive experience, consequently, social media has become something that trademark administrators and companies alike must pay attention to.
But while social media has been a boon for companiesâ ability to engage with their customers they also pose trademark problems for businesses. Companies are at risk of some imposter taking their identity. Sometimes itâs a flat out theft, other times it is just a matter of limited real estate. For example, thereâs the URL www.facebook.com/delta. Who gets the domain, Delta Airlines or Delta Faucet?
The trademark issues are somewhat similar, but the law isnât. There are clear rules and legal procedures for resolving cybersquatting and other domain name disputes. However, technologyâs rapid rate is simply to fast for the law to keep up with social media. I frequently tell my clients when relating to legal issues involving social media that we are in uncharted waters.
Despite the uncharted nature of these waters the trademark ownerâs position is substantially improved (generally speaking) by registration of their trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through a qualified IP attorney. Therefore, this article will assume that the business names in question are registered trademarks.