Hashtags have become a critical online marketing tool. The tags assist consumers in connecting with marketing campaigns whether selling a product, introducing a service or bringing awareness to all kinds of social and political issues. Because of the power of hashtags, they can become invaluable intellectual property when used correctly.
Just to reiterate, trademarks or service marks are generally a word, or few words, symbol, character, sound, color or logo that serves as a source indicator for person or company selling a service or product. The purpose of trademark is to assist consumers in distinguishing between brands. In other words, like any other identifying mark, for hashtag to meet USPTO registration standards, the hashtag must be used in connection with a product or service and offered in some way to the public in commerce. That means that simply creating a logo, phrase or hashtag phrase does not automatically create any ownership where nothing has been offered to the public to associate the hashtag.
Whether a social or political awareness campaign or launching a new product, a hashtag as a potential registered mark would receive protection in a specific protection area or international class as the USPTO calls it. Any marketing materials submitted to the USPTO as evidence of use must include the actual hashtag (#) and the word, words or phrase.
So before using a hashtag, make sure you are using it in a way that identifies your brand as the source and it’s tied to a specific product, service or compelling issue.
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