The protection of brands, slogans, positioning statements and program titles must be a high priority of any electronic media company. These assets establish the identity of any broadcaster, webcaster or other media company. Media companies need to protect these assets through the rights accorded by trademark law. We have been running a series of articles
Trademark Basics Part 4: Trademark Housekeeping 101 – Conducting a Trademark Audit
Last week, we discussed the benefits of federally registering your trademarks. But having a few federal registrations under your belt doesn’t mean your task of building a valuable trademark portfolio is complete. There are several additional steps you can take to make sure you are managing your trademarks wisely and getting the most value from them.
As we discussed last week, federal registration gives you many benefits and it is the most cost-effective way to protect your brand. Once you have those registrations in hand, however, it is important to periodically take stock in what you own and what you are (or are no longer) using. This can help you identify (1) new brands that can be exploited, potentially opening up new lines of licensing revenue, (2) vulnerabilities in your current trademark practices that could expose you to the risk of litigation, and (3) cost savings by identifying marks that are no longer in use and discontinuing their maintenance and enforcement. Proactively maintaining your trademark portfolio can also help you avoid surprises. Imagine discovering that an important trademark registration has lapsed only through the due diligence being conducted by a potential buyer of your station or station group. Not only is that an embarrassing position to be in, but it could compromise your valuation and your negotiating power.
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Protect Your Company Name or Call Sign on Facebook
As you may have heard, Facebook is going to allow users to register names in their Facebook URL, replacing the former random ID numbers. This policy, announced in a Facebook blog post earlier this week will become effective on a first come, first served basis beginning Saturday, June 13 at 12:01 am. This new policy creates the danger that Facebook users may try to register as their user name words or phrases that could infringe on a company name, trademarked slogan, or even a broadcast station’s call signs. To prevent others from using your company’s name, call sign or other trademark, Facebook has created a form allowing rights holders to register their marks ahead of time. To protect your intellectual property in the easiest manner possible (without the need for costly infringement lawsuits of other actions), companies should take advantage of the procedures outlined by Facebook itself, and register with the company.
A couple of caveats:
- User names have to be at least five alphanumeric characters. This means that four letter call signs cannot be used as user names unless used with a suffix or frequency. Since periods are the only punctuation allowed, acceptable user names might be WXYZ.FM, or FM98.1, for example.
- In order to prevent someone from using your trademark in advance, it appears that it must be a registered mark. However, a separate form appears to allow intellectual property rights holders to reclaim a user name, even if it is not a registered trademark. Thus, if your company name, mark or call sign is unregistered, you can either register it as your own Facebook user name or wait until someone else does that and complain after the fact. You do not need to be a Facebook user to submit the intellectual property rights forms described above.
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