This is the first in a series of articles on protecting your brand in a slow economy. This news alert focuses on one way to control the use of your brand on a social networking site, the popularity of which is growing. It's fast, easy, and available at a very low (or no) cost to you.

On Tuesday, the social networking site Facebook announced that starting this Saturday, June 13, at 12:01 a.m. (EDT), existing Facebook users will be able to register vanity URLs (Facebook web addresses personalized with a name of their choice, such as "http://www.facebook.com/amiepeelecarter"). New Facebook users may do so starting on Sunday, June 28.

In developing this program, Facebook proactively created protections for trademark owners. Trademark owners may enroll their trademark(s) with Facebook by using a form on the Facebook website located here. Trademark owners also may use authorized representatives to enroll their trademarks with Facebook. Once a trademark is enrolled in this program, Facebook users will not be permitted to create directly infringing vanity URLs.

Facebook created a procedure to remove offending vanity URLs created by its users, located here. Facebook also reserves the right to reclaim any vanity URL for any reason. Being proactive and enrolling your trademarks before the June 13 date would prevent the need to take advantage of that program. You do not have to set up a Facebook page to enroll your trademark.

Trademark owners are encouraged to take action and enroll their trademarks right away. Facebook does not assess a fee when you enroll your trademark.