On June 9, 2009, social networking site Facebook announced that, starting at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 13, it will allow its users to create personalized usernames. This will, Facebook states, make it easier for users’ friends and families to find them on the site. Many are referring to this as the opportunity to pick a “vanity URL.” Currently, a web address for an individual’s Facebook page is a randomly assigned number, such as “id=289034751.” Other similar sites, such as Twitter and YouTube, have been offering this feature for some time.

A problem for trademark owners arises when users register well-known brands and other marks as their usernames (e.g., “facebook.com/trademark”). Because such use may not be characterized as “use in commerce,” relief under the federal Lanham Act may not be available. It is not unusual for a brand owner to discover that its famous trademark is being used, for example, as a “channel” on YouTube for someone’s personal videos and commentary.

Facebook, in an attempt to work with trademark owners, is providing an extremely short window of opportunity prior to the June 13 username “land rush” to submit trademarks and other protected names with the site to prevent their selection as usernames. A form to do so is provided at the web page at the link below.

Recommendation

We recommend that our clients submit their trademarks to Facebook, using the form at the link below, to prevent others from choosing those marks as or as part of their personal Facebook usernames. Though it appears that this form can be submitted at any time, we strongly recommend that our clients act quickly so that their marks are reserved prior to the 12:01 a.m. EDT, June 13, 2009, land rush.

http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=username_rights