Facebook announced this week that it will begin providing access to vanity URLs this coming Saturday on a first-come, first-serve basis. Previously, a user’s Facebook URL was comprised of randomly assigned numbers but soon, users will be able to reserve “username”-based URLs. For example, instead of random numbers the URL would say www.facebook.com/username. The stated purpose of this development is to make it easier to locate Facebook pages.

However, offering such services has the potential to open the flood gates for potential trademark infringers and cybersquatters. Anyone could easily abuse these procedures by reserving your trademarks as their username and thereby hold themselves out as being affiliated with your company. In order to mitigate those possibilities, Facebook is providing trademark owners with the ability to block URL extensions for trademarks which are registered. Taking this action will effectively remove your trademark from the list of possible usernames and help protect your mark from potential infringement.

The public reservation period for usernames begins this Saturday, June 13, 2009, at 12:01 am EDT. We strongly recommend blocking your trademarks before this reservation period begins. This means the relevant form should be completed for each of your trademarks by today, June 12, 2009. We are happy to provide assistance in this process.

It seems clear that Facebook's policy has not accounted for every contingency, and that future changes to the policy are likely. Even under the current Facebook policy, however, it is possible to object to content that infringes one's intellectual property rights. Therefore, options other than the current pre-emptive blocking exist if problems arise at a later date.

If you would like to read more about this issue and/or take action yourself, please see the following links:

The Facebook announcement

Facebook's frequently asked questions

The page for blocking names and trademarks