On Saturday, June 13, at 12:01 AM (EDT) Facebook will begin allowing users the opportunity to create usernames to be associated with their Facebook pages. Usernames will become part of the URL for a particular page and can be entered as a search term on Facebook or in popular search engines. Usernames will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis at www.facebook.com/username/. The announcement from Facebook was made this week.
This new policy creates the danger for trademark owners that their marks will be improperly registered as Facebook usernames by third parties. Facebook has created a mechanism for trademark owners to prevent their trademarks from being registered as usernames through an online form accessible at: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=username_rights.
In order to use this protective mechanism, trademark owners or their representatives will be required to provide trademark registration numbers for each mark claimed and confirm ownership of the mark or authorization to act on behalf of the trademark owner.
While the username process and protective mechanism both are likely to continue after Saturday, June 13, we recommend filing trademarks with Facebook through the mechanism prior to Saturday, although we recognize that may not be practical given Facebook's short notice.
This pre-emptive mechanism apparently only accepts trademarks accompanied by a trademark registration number. Facebook does have a procedure for reporting that a username which is registered infringes intellectual property rights, including presumably common law trademarks and other protectable names, which does not appear to require a registration number.
Of course, while the mechanism offers a cost-free method to protect trademarks from adoption by third parties as usernames, traditional trademark infringement claims under the Lanham Act are available as well to trademark owners whose rights are infringed by a third party user name regardless of whether they avail themselves of the pre-emptive mechanism or other reporting procedures provided by Facebook.